City councilors paused Safe Outdoor Space applications, so what’s next?

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The drama around city-sanctioned homeless camps in Albuquerque is ramping up yet again. More city councilors are voting to put a stop to “Safe Outdoor Spaces,” but the idea is a long way from dead.

The ball is now in Mayor Tim Keller’s court after the city council voted to put a moratorium, or a halt, to all the Safe Outdoor Spaces applications.

The big surprise is the number of councilors who voted against Safe Outdoor Spaces. Past votes have been really close, but last night, another councilor has switched sides – at least for now.

The mayor’s office has 10 days to decide on whether or not to veto, and the mayor might have to do some work behind the scenes if he wants Safe Outdoor Spaces to be a part of his “all of the above” approach to addressing the city’s growing homeless problem.

“I think we’re all very frustrated. We’ve been piecemealing our way to getting something,” said City Councilor Pat Davis. “We’ve never had a comprehensive plan.”

Now the idea to have city-sanctioned homeless camps – with a few more rules – to help folks who want to get off the street – might remain just that – an idea.

A moratorium passed to stop the application process for more Safe Outdoor Spaces. But the surprise came from City Councilor Trudy Jones.

“It’s something we do need to do. We can bat this around, talk about it every meeting we have, talk about it with the press, talk about it amongst each other, but until we try something, we have nothing,” said Jones. 

After saying that – she voted to stop Safe Outdoor Spaces. 

Unavailable for an interview, Jones sent KOB 4 a statement that says in part:

“It has been my intention to have a trial period with just one Safe Outdoor Space to make sure it can work efficiently and be effective.”

Referencing the one safe space that has been approved near the Big-I. 

“I hope this first one will prove to be successful and will ease the concerns of people in the community.” 

City Councilor Brook Bassan was excited about Jones’ vote. If the opposition for Safe Outdoor Spaces holds with six votes – the council could overturn a mayoral veto.

The mayor calls it “incredibly unhelpful” for councilors to be “waffling mere months” after initially supporting the idea.

“I mean, in many regards, we are waffling and I’m the reason we’re doing it and I respect that, and I’ve owned it,” said Bassan. 

Bassan says she’s voting against Safe Outdoor Spaces because people don’t want them. The supporters want to see the mayor take charge.

“I think the mayor could go a long way in winning support in consolidating everybody by sitting down with the councilors who are changing their minds and still have some questions and try to remedy those. They’re not wrong,” said Davis. “If this looks like the only option the city is offering, neighborhoods and councilors are going to frustrated.”

The mayor is still non-committal on whether or not he’ll veto this moratorium. He has 10 days to make a decision.