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With Support From Bernalillo County, City’s Westside Shelter Will Stay Open Year-Round

Westside Emergency Housing Center to stay open after March as part of efforts to address homeless.

February 28, 2019

Every year, Albuquerque’s Westside Emergency Housing Center closes down again when warmer weather arrives in March. That closure leaves the more than 300 men, women, and children, served each night by the shelter, limited options to turn to when they want or need to get off the streets.

Mayor Tim Keller and Bernalillo County Manager Julie Morgas Baca joined other City and County officials and Shelter managers to celebrate the cementing of new support to keep the Westside Emergency Housing Center open year-round.

Mayor Keller said, “Homelessness is a harsh reality in Albuquerque and we are working to tackle it from all sides. We’ve heard the message from residents, and they want us to make solutions to this problem a priority. Too often for people experiencing homelessness in our city, the only choices are the emergency room or the jail. We can do better. The County and City together can unlock the potential for collaboration that makes a difference.”

"We're honored to be able to help add this needed service to the community. We see the Westside Shelter as a temporary safe haven for those experiencing homelessness and to those living with a behavioral health condition, because our ultimate goal is stability and housing. To date, our Behavioral Health Initiative has started 18 different programs that are already making progress in our community, this collaboration is another avenue for people who need behavioral health support to receive it," said County Manager Julie Morgas Baca.

The City will continue to contract with Heading Home, a New Mexico non-profit that provides emergency housing, permanent supportive housing services and prioritized street outreach to people experiencing homelessness, to operate the shelter.

In addition to joining the City in funding shelter operations, the County will also contribute case management staffing at the shelter that will increase access to clinical services, recovery, coping skills and other support on an individualized basis. The two entities will also work together to coordinate pickups for the Metropolitan Assessment Treatment Services at Coronado Park.

The Westside shelter is a key piece of the City’s existing homelessness service infrastructure. It serves single men, single women, and families with children experiencing homelessness, averaging 324 people per night in January 2019. Overnight capacity is 450 beds. In past years, it was open from November to March. This winter it has served 1,263 distinct individuals. Keeping it open year-round will cost $4.6 million annually.

The County support mirrors other collaboration happening in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County to address the underlying causes of homelessness, including behavioral and mental health. 41% of residents who have stayed at the Westside Shelter have a self-reported mental health condition. 23% have a self-reported alcohol or substance abuse condition.

The University of New Mexico, UNM Health Sciences Center, City of Albuquerque, County of Bernalillo, and a network of community-based providers are working together like never before on a systematic and comprehensive approach to homelessness.

  • Diversion& Prevention: Prevention assistance preserves current housing situations. Diversion prevents homelessness by identifying alternate housing.
  • Coordinated Entry: Coordinated entry is a process designed to identify, assess, refer and connect people in crisis to housing and assistance.
  • Outreach: Outreach workers connect those in need to services and work with other programs to move people into permanent housing.
  • Emergency Shelters & Interim Housing: Emergency shelter and interim housing provides a place to stay in a crisis. These are low-to-no- barrier interventions that align with the larger system's goals.
  • Permanent Housing: Build an exit strategy out of homelessness with permanent housing programs like our One Albuquerque Housing Fund. Housing vouchers are proven throughout the country as the most effective way of helping people get off the streets for good.
  • Mitigating the Impact of Homelessness on the Community: While the goal is to help people obtain housing, we must also address the impact on neighborhoods, local parks, and businesses when people are living in public spaces.

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