Albuquerque city officials clarify plans for homeless camp
ALBUQUERQUE, NM — Dozens of Albuquerque citizens recently drew a hard line in the sand, saying they don’t want to talk about sanctioned homeless camps in their neighborhoods — and they made sure their city councilor did so. knew Thursday night.
Councilman Brook Bassan confirmed there are no plans in the Northeast Heights for what the city calls a “safe outdoor space.” City officials say these spaces could help our city’s homelessness problem, but neighbors are concerned about how illegal encampments, such as Coronado Park, are currently operating.
“This Coronado Park is just a model of what the new encampments will be like,” said Ralph DiPalma.
DiPalma volunteers to help the homeless in the park. He says more encampments would mean more trouble.
“There is human waste everywhere, there is drug trafficking,” he added.
He is not alone.
“If the city can’t control Coronado Park, how much confidence should we have that these new safe outdoor spaces, which the city wants to make, will be able to control them?” asked Doreen McKnight, president of the Wells Park Neighborhood Association.
McKnight says she doesn’t have much faith that things will get any better in city spaces, given how things went in Coronado Park.
Mayor Keller rebutted: “The spaces are secure, they have rules to follow and they also have service delivery on site. They are very different.
Chopper 4 flew over Albuquerque and found tents not only in parks but also near arroyos and underpasses. That’s part of the reason Councilwoman Bassan told her constituents Thursday night why she voted to endorse safe spaces.
Bassan explained, “It was a response to the community saying, ‘We don’t want encampments in front of our businesses, in city parks, in front of our homes, on private property anywhere in the city.’ I’m in favor of creating a lot where people who want to live in a tent for whatever reason have to go to that designated place instead of anywhere in Albuquerque – which in turn would allow APD to begin to be really capable of enforcing the laws to a greater extent.
Mayor Keller says after losing state money to fight the city’s homelessness, he’s open to all options.
“We support all available tools and we need them too,” the mayor said. “We have churches waiting to make authorized encampments where people will be safe.”
Next Wednesday, the Albuquerque City Council is set to vote on big issues — one will address zoning changes to open the door to safe spaces and another will create a task force to define specific rules for those safe spaces.