Leaders outline plans for Albuquerque’s Safe Outdoor Spaces

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Leaders are laying out more details about what Albuquerque’s upcoming Safe Outdoor Spaces could look like in coming months. City leaders have allocated $750,000 for these spaces in this year’s budget.

“We are not trying to put Coronado parks everywhere,” said Elizabeth Holguin, the deputy director of Homeless Solutions in Albuquerque’s Family and Community Services Department. “A safe outdoor space is the opposite of what you see at Coronado and other unsanctioned encampments.”

A space ideally has 40 to 50 spots for tents. Each one will have an opaque fence that locks, and the city will hire security.

“Usually the site will provide meals, there’s always bathrooms and hand washing stations, sometimes showers, sometimes Wi-Fi is provided, there’s a whole gamut of options that could happen with enough resources,” said Holguin.

As far as drug use, Holguin said evidence shows people should be housed before they try to tackle their addiction.

“Just as in anybody’s home you know what they do in their tent is their business,” said Holguin. “However there is no drug dealing, no sort of transactions at all or any display of paraphilia in the common space.”

What about consequences for people who choose to still occupy sidewalks and parks? Holguin said her department is working out those details with the mayor’s office and the Albuquerque Police Department.

“Having the safe outdoor spaces would give that extra I think layer of protection for the police department to be able to more definitively say you know ‘you want to camp, you can’t camp here, this is where you can camp now’,” said Holguin.

Leaders hope the spaces will serve as connection points for case management resources so people can work toward permanent housing and job training.

They can range in price from $70-360,000, depending on the bells and whistles. For example, Camp Hope in Las Cruces operates on a $70,000 budget, but each one is different.

Albuquerque leaders don’t plan to put multiple spaces in each city council district. They’re looking to start with one and go from there.

Family and Community Services is proposing one more resolution at the city council meeting later in June. If that passes, they hope to have a space up and running by the end of the summer. There are already two church congregations interested in providing space.