Albuquerque leaders discuss plans for ‘Safe Outdoor Spaces’

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Crime and homelessness remain top-of-mind across Albuquerque. That is why the city is trying to come up with new ways to tackle both at the same time.

On Tuesday morning, city leaders elaborated their plans for new “Safe Outdoor Spaces,” in front of Bernalillo County’s Homeless Coordinating Council.

They would be communities of tents for our homeless population, uniform in design and structure, and fenced in for safety.

"You cannot bring anything that does not fit into your structure. You get a storage bin, sleeping area, and chair," Holguin said.

Safe Outdoor Spaces would provide help with job referrals, benefit navigation, among other things: "Resources like bathrooms, showers, electricity, shade structures, sometimes even internet,” Holguin said. “Definitely handwashing stations. There’s often connections to food and meals and all of the different outreach services that can be provided."

Officials say there would be policies preventing weapons, and the safe spaces would be supervised by a management team.

"Not anyone can just walk up,” Holguin said. “People will be accepted based on outreach worker referral."

Drugs and alcohol would be allowed inside tents, the same way they are allowed in homes.

"Obviously there’s no drug dealing," Holguin added.

City leaders say this policy has seen success at Safe Outdoor Spaces in Denver, CO. They also recognize that these homes are not a solution to homelessness, but hope they will help curb the metro’s crime crisis by providing a safer alternative to life on the street.

The initiative is still in its early planning stages, so size and potential locations remain up in the air. Leaders are encouraging the public to share their thoughts at the next city council meeting on May 16.