Heading Home signs on to run Gateway Center shelter

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — As we close in on the early 2023 opening date for Albuquerque’s Gateway Center, a household name in addressing homelessness just signed on to play a big role in the center.

Heading Home, the state’s largest provider for the homeless, will run the shelter inside the center.

Chassity Garcia, who brings lived experience to the table, will run the Women’s Gateway Program specifically.

“I didn’t know where to go next. And when I didn’t know where to go next, I tried to reach out and I couldn’t get a hold of anybody,” said Garcia. “I overcame it, and that’s why I’m here today.”

Garcia says she’s excited to work with Native women specifically, who need a host of resources.

“That way we are able to help them be stabilized and to help them achieve their goals – if not, we will try again and again and again and again and again,” said Garcia.

City leaders say Heading Home far surpassed the qualifications they were looking for in a partner to run the shelter.

“They have a history of partnership with the city that is very strong– they run our westside emergency shelter, they run the Albuquerque opportunity center which is a men’s shelter, and they also partner with us for the wellness two hotels,” said Cristina Parajon, Gateway administrator.

Construction crews are moving full speed ahead toward the opening date. Phase one includes fifty beds for women, and a 24/7 first responder drop-off.

“Really what it is is it’s a placement system,” said Parajon. “So as soon as you come into the first responder drop off you have a case manager, you have a peer support worker, who will then be able to help you toward your next place.”

Parajon says recent numbers, among other things, drive the focus on women specifically.

“We have less beds in the city available for women than we do for men even when we’re talking in terms of proportion,” said Parajon. “Essentially there are more Native women experiencing homelessness on our streets here in Albuquerque than Latina and white women combined. And so as we’re opening these first 50 beds, the initial phase of Gateway that will serve 200 women a year we wanted to really make sure our services were accessible.”

Heading Home has about $2 million in city funding to run the shelter for the first half of 2023.