Pedestrians concerned over littered walkway to nearby school

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – It’s not a secret Albuquerque has a growing homeless population. And now one neighborhood says they no longer feel comfortable letting their kids walk to school because of the tents and shopping carts that line the sidewalks.

Autumn Avila, a concerned grandma, sent KOB 4 a video of the sidewalk that she and her grandson used to take while walking to school. Now, it’s nearly impassible because of the junk and clutter. In the last few months, she’s decided it would be better to drive her grandson to school, even though it takes longer.

“It’s hard to explain to my 6-year-old grandson why we can’t walk to school anymore, it’s hard to explain to him when we drive by here because we see it every day, and it’s hard to explain why these people aren’t getting help. It makes him sad,” Avila said.

Avila’s grandson goes to Christine Duncan Charter school near the Walmart on Coors. Their house is right across I-40. So, the easiest way to get to school is to walk across the pedestrian bridge.

“We enjoyed walking to school every day, and now we can’t,” Avila said.

The sidewalks are lined with both full and abandoned shopping carts, piles of blankets, and trash. Multiple neighbors said they have called 311 asking the city to clear the area, but they keep getting the same response.

“If they don’t want to leave this area they don’t have to leave,” Avila said is what the city tells her about the homeless camping on the sidewalk near her house, “So, in other words, they are doing what they want in our neighborhoods.”

Then, on the occasion when the city does stop by, Avila says:

“They just move the stuff to the side and in a few hours it’s back, sometimes even more, or worse.”

It’s a frustrating cycle for the folks who live in this neighborhood. And for the folks who live on the sidewalk. Some homeless said they are also fed up with the city.

“With the city, if it’s out of sight it’s out of mind. As long as we stay out of sight no one minds,” 31-year-old homeless man Jonathan Montoyna explains in his makeshift camp by the bridge, “But the problem is they are sweeping us under the rug and that is what bothers me.”

Montoyna has called the corner of Juniper Road and Atrisco Drive NW home for nearly 5 months. He has a tent, blankets, and even storage shelves lined up in the open space near the pedestrian bridge that crosses I-40.

“I don’t know why us homeless people make a mess so much, I try to clean it up, I do,” Montoyna said.

Montoyna said he used to live over on 98th, but left that area because too many thieves kept coming into his camp. He has tried living at other places but has found the safest place to be is on city property.

“This spot right here, it belongs to the city. I figured everywhere else is private property. People aren’t even calling the cops anymore, one homeless guy was hit with a crowbar the other day cause he was sleeping by a dumpster. Over here, it’s city land so I figure I won’t have a crowbar waking me up and they can’t kick me out,” Montoyna said.

While the city can’t tell him to leave this area, neighbors are saying there has to be a better option.

“I feel bad for these people,” Avila said, “There has to be some kind of change for them as well as for us because it is affecting not only our neighborhoods but also them they need some kind of help or place to go.”

The city is currently working on the Gateway Center over on Gibson, but it’s still about a year away from opening and neighbors want an answer now.

KOB 4 asked Montoyna if he’s heard about the Gateway Center and if he would go there once it opens? He said no one has explained to him what the center will be like and he’s skeptical of whether or not it will help him.

The city responded to KOB 4 through email late Monday evening. They mentioned the services coming like the Gateway Center and also said:

"The solid waste department is working within the limits of the law to address encampments. There have been numerous 311 reports about the I-40 catwalk and solid waste has responded and addressed the area following every report."

But as KOB 4 saw today, the encampment is still there. We followed up with an email asking for a more detailed response on what has been done to address that area.