Local organization hopes Albuquerque will change handling of homeless camps

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Albuquerque’s Gateway Center is not set to open until 2022.

In the meantime, the temporary fixes are not enough for some New Mexicans – and go too far for others. Neither of them are happy with how crews are handling homeless camps throughout the city.

A viewer reached out to KOB 4 about a situation at a city park near Tramway and Central. Colleen Aycock said it’s typically full of homeless people in tents, using drugs. That camp is now gone.

"One Friday afternoon I came by and counted, 70 unhoused individuals, drug addicts, drug dealers,” said Aycock.

As of Tuesday, Aycock said the park is finally cleaned up.

"This is success. Are we getting help from anybody? It starts with us," she said.

She started an organization called ‘Women Taking Back our Neighborhoods,’ an effort to demand change for the homeless situation she believes has spiraled out of control.

"If we find someone who really needs homeless services, right now in a really important way we support them, we find them services, we even pay out of our own pockets,” said Aycock. “Our problem, is that we want to clean up the drug addiction problem."

But their relentless calls to the city have worked, to some degree. The homeless camp relocated – to right across the street.

"We do have a process for addressing encampments on public property which includes reaching out to people, providing information about services including shelter, so that they do know that they have other options," said Lisa Huval, deputy director of Housing and Homelessness with the city’s Department of Family and Community Services.

For example, overnight shelters and trying to get them in contact with nonprofits that can help.

“Everything I listed are things we’re doing right now. So we’re providing street outreach right now, helping folks move off the street. We’re funding $12 million in supportive housing programs that will house about a thousand individuals and families this year. So I think we are doing things right now,” said Huval.

Huval said when they get a call about an encampment they respond and give individuals 72 hours to leave the property. If city officials come back and items are still there, they take steps to remove it – considering those items abandoned.

“I saw a man in a wheelchair trying really quickly to get across the street at the cross walk,” said Daniel Porter, a concerned citizen. “Clearly cars were coming at him and stuff. He was able to make it across the street.”

Porter has completely different concerns with the city’s handling of the homeless population and believes there has to be another way.

He sent KOB 4 a picture of a garbage truck tossing someone’s shopping cart full of stuff.

“I understand the impact that this crisis is having on neighborhoods and on the city as a whole. You know I don’t think there’s a clear solution. But as a Christian my faith teaches me to stand up for the poor and care for the poor and I don’t think throwing away people’s possessions, if that was what was happening, is the correct solution,” said Porter.

KOB 4 took his concerns to Huval – who believes there may be more to the story. She said crews follow strict policy.

“If encampment residents are present when the encampment team, this is either true if it’s a hazard situation, people are given the opportunity to collect their belongings and leave the site,” she said. “We never throw away people’s personal items while they’re standing there. Like, that does not happen.”

City officials said your best bet is to call 311, if you want to either get someone help or report an encampment. They have city employees who work full time responding to encampments on public property.

But they do prioritize those calls. Anything that could cause harm to those people or the community would be pushed up on that list.