Albuquerque officials defend homeless protocols, despite judge’s injunction
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Today is the deadline for the City of Albuquerque to follow a judge’s decision on how to treat homeless people. Back in September, a judge sided with the ACLU, placing a hold against the city’s actions.
KOB 4 spoke with city leaders for an update. City officials disagree, saying they are already doing what the judge is requiring them to do.
“The city has always been doing things that are part of the injunction, like giving 72-hour notice, prior to cleaning homeless encampments that weren’t immediate hazards,” said Matthew Whelan, CABQ deputy chief administrative officer.
But back in September, Judge Joshua Allison said that wasn’t happening. He also said the city was punishing the unhoused by seizing or destroying their belongings without notice, ability to challenge that decision, or opportunities to reclaim their items.
“It depends on what’s being cleaned up,” Whelan said. “Some stuff is abandoned items that, you know, we do go and we do find an abandoned encampment or things that are abandoned. I know that the supervisors do circle the area to see if they can locate somebody who it is connected to, but if they can’t find that, then it’s just considered abandoned, and it falls into the guidelines of illegal dumping.”
Since the judge ordered the temporary injunction, Whelan says their protocols haven’t changed all that much.
“Prior to the entry of the injunction, we consistently had sufficient beds at our West Side Emergency Housing Center,” Whelan said. “We have used housing vouchers and hotels in the past, but we just continued to do a lot of the things that we were already doing. We did add another component of additional storage where we can offer storage to people – we had offered this in the past at certain points. But now we’re going to continue to do that.”
The city is also opening a new service at the Gateway Center. Starting Nov. 1, 35 beds are available for men. That’s in addition to the 50 beds that are available for women.
In October, the city filed an appeal against the district court ruling. They also asked for clarification.
“We have asked the judge to clarify some of the scopes of the of the injunction,” Whelan said. “But we still haven’t received anything yet. Because there are some parts that were a little vague… and so we want to be a bit more clear on those.”
The city has also asked the New Mexico Supreme Court to intervene. They’re waiting on a ruling from both courts.