Homeless Coordinating Council provides update on Gateway Center

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – It’s a new year – and that calls for some new strategies to address homelessness in Albuquerque. So what kind of ideas do city and county leaders have?

While new details about the long-awaited Gateway Center were released, its opening date is still months away. On Tuesday, the Homeless Coordinating Council gave KOB 4 a look at the solutions that are promising some assistance soon.

"There’s not a, there’s not one direction. We gotta come at this from multiple perspectives,” said Lawrence Rael, Albuquerque city manager.

Members of the council presented new plans to get more people out of the cold, starting with an extra wellness hotel in Albuquerque.

"I’m hoping we can get it operating maybe in the next couple of weeks, and we’ve got staff ready to go and ready to help our homeless community and get them out of the cold,” said Julie Morgas Baca, Bernalillo County manager.

Albuquerque city leaders are also working to secure more hotel vouchers for families experiencing homelessness. As for a short-term solution, council members pointed to the city’s extensive bus network.

"Free fares, or free bus fares, went into effect on Jan. 1,” said Lisa Huval, Albuquerque’s director of Homeless & Housing Services.

Huval said the Transportation Department adopted a new policy that will allow anyone to ride city buses as long as they want.

"And just like any other rider, as long as they’re not creating any unsafe conditions for drivers or passengers, they’ll be able to remain on the bus."

Huval said the city is still finalizing what problematic behavior looks like. Meanwhile, work continues on the Gateway Center.

"Phase 1 is really going to be a low-barrier emergency shelter,” said Cristina Parajon, Gateway systems analyst.

Officials say the first phase will include 50 beds and will focus mainly on women experiencing homelessness.

There is still no firm timeline when the new facility could open – last year members predicted by the end of 2022. The council says they may be looking at the state again to pitch in.

"These facilities are at a point where we need some support from the state to help fund these programs,” said Rael.

The Homeless Coordinating Council is planning to ask state lawmakers for $83 million to help fund several projects, including the Gateway Center.