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Mayor Tim Keller Outlines Citywide Plan to Address Homelessness

Multifaceted approach to include emergency shelter, transitional housing, behavioral health and substance abuse services.

September 6, 2018

Today, Mayor Tim Keller announced that his administration is developing a citywide plan to address homelessness in Albuquerque, with some options that can be implemented immediately and others that are long-term. Mayor Keller’s goal is to develop a multifaceted approach using best practices from other cities while taking into account the unique needs of people experiencing homelessness in Albuquerque.

“Homelessness is a harsh reality in Albuquerque and we’re changing our city’s approach by taking a more active role to address the root causes of homelessness, while collaborating with partners to meet immediate needs. We’re looking to increase emergency shelter options, add transitional housing, and expand behavioral health services and substance abuse treatment,” said Mayor Keller.

The multifaceted approach includes:

  1. Creating a place for people experiencing homelessness to go. Although Albuquerque has a number of shelter options, there is no place that a person experiencing homelessness can go 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to get off the streets. Fixing that is a top priority.
  2. Keeping the winter shelter open year-round while shelter options are being built. The winter shelter is currently open each year from November 15 to March 15 during nighttime hours, leaving a gap in shelter space during summer months when heat exposure is a serious threat. While the City explores other shelter options closer to services and jobs, it will look into expanding hours at the winter shelter to a year-round, 24-7 model as a short-term option to get people off the streets.
  3. Helping folks transition from emergency shelter to affordable housing with “housing vouchers.” In June of this year, Mayor Keller and the Albuquerque Housing Authority (AHA) announced a new partnership to serve those who are experiencing homelessness. The City of Albuquerque awarded just over $1 million through the HOME Program to increase tenant-based rental assistance vouchers to serve clients of the Albuquerque Heading Home Program. The program provides vulnerable households with rental assistance to transition to permanent affordable housing. Mayor Keller has also worked with City Council to expand affordable housing projects, including the newly opened Sterling Downtown Apartments and included $15 million in the budget for affordable housing contracts.
  4. Providing homeless services in the new Downtown Public Safety District. In an effort to address root causes of homelessness in the new Downtown Public Safety District, Mayor Tim Keller has directed the Albuquerque Police Department to place several Crisis Outreach and Support Teams (COAST) in the downtown and Wells Park areas. The district will include a downtown substation and COAST will reach out to people experiencing homelessness or who are in need of behavioral health and substance abuse services.
  5. Albuquerque needs a triage center for behavioral health and addiction services. Albuquerque residents need a place to go to overcome challenges to accessing behavioral health services and substance abuse treatment, and police and paramedics need a place to take people in crisis. Although not only for people experiencing homelessness, a crisis triage center is an essential piece of the puzzle to make our streets and community safer. In addition to providing needed services, the center will also ensure the crisis teams at the City and County's Fire law enforcement departments can take those experiencing behavioral health crises to a location with appropriate services and professionals, while alleviating pressures on the emergency room.

“Collaborating with Bernalillo County, the University of New Mexico, the business community and non-profit organizations is essential to moving the needle on homelessness and behavioral health,” stated Mayor Tim Keller.

In May, Mayor Keller traveled to San Antonio to learn about approaches to homelessness. San Antonio has constructed a homeless campus and community policing programs that work together to connect those experiencing homelessness with services that promote solid foundations that help families and individuals achieve permanent housing. While at the location, Mayor Keller reviewed the successes and setbacks of the project in order to better inform Albuquerque’s strategy to address homelessness.

As part of his vision to create an inclusive Albuquerque, Mayor Tim Keller developed a new leadership structure in the Department of Family and Community Services to bring needed expertise and accountability as the City focuses on addressing education, behavioral health, and homelessness, all of which have a major impact on public safety.

More information on the Mayor’s initiative on homelessness will be released in the coming months.