Advocates say estimate of NM's homeless population is off

Created: 12/03/2013 10:24 PM
By: Caleb James, KOB Eyewitness News 4

What feels cold outside to us is likely unbearable for many New Mexicans who call the streets home.

As winter closes in, federal Housing and Urban Development reports an 18 percent drop in New Mexico's homeless population since 2010. The agency reports just under 3,000 New Mexicans are homeless.

But look closely—for some, the number 3,000 raises questions.     

Albuquerque Public Schools alone says they served about 6,000 homeless students in 2011.

Some local advocates say fewer folks may be living on the streets, but the numbers from HUD give the wrong impression.

The world can be a scary place even when you have somewhere to call home.

"There's so many different reasons why people are homeless," said Michelle Sias.

Sias has a lot of room in her heart for New Mexico's homeless.

"It varies from drug addiction to alcoholism to life crisis," she said.

Understanding for those less fortunate is what Sias teaches her son, Zach. But it's an education he's experienced first hand for most of his young life.

"It was scary because we had my son and my wife out there," said Richard Sias, Michelle's husband and Zach's father.

"Running from one area to the next, just to get something to eat and find some place to stay takes up your whole day," he said.

This seemingly typical Albuquerque family has been homeless for months -- living at area homeless shelter Joy Junction.

The shelter says HUD's estimate of New Mexico's homeless population at just 2,816 doesn't tell the whole story, especially when Albuquerque Public Schools reports serving 6,000 homeless kids in 2011.

Joy Junction gets worried when the stats seem skewed -- especially as temperatures take a dive and more families need help.

Sias says he moved his family to New Mexico because of limited resources in California. Here he can stay with his family while he receives addiction treatment.

"There's a lot of help here," he said. "Some people want it, and some people don't."

Joy Junction administrators tell KOB there has never been a greater need for support for the homeless community. Families like the Sias spend at times months in shelters before getting back on their feet.

An important note about the HUD numbers: They are gathered by taking a random sample on one day a year.

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