Neighbors draw concerns about homeless people camping near Gateway Center

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The Gateway Center is the city’s solution for homelessness. But why are folks still seeing homeless people camping steps away from that center and its resources?

Neighbors near the Gateway Center say it took multiple days and calls to clear people and their camps out. They worry the situation will only get worse as the Gateway grows to serve more people. 

On the other hand, city leaders say they expect nothing but positive impacts now and in the future.

“My family’s been in that area of the Southeast Heights for over 75 years, and it’s on purpose,” said Tamaya Toulouse.

Toulouse is raising the fourth generation of her family in Albuquerque’s Siesta Hills neighborhood.

She lives three blocks from this Family Dollar on Gibson – a private business near the Gateway that’s gotten a lot of attention in recent weeks.

“We saw that the doors to the building were busted open on both sides, both facing Gibson and on the west side of the building. People are just errantly in and out as they please – dozens of people,” Toulouse said. 

She says it took multiple reports to 311, a call to her city councilor and four days for city crews to have people and their camps move out.

“I’ve seen the neighborhood just get more and more disenfranchised and more and more broken,” Toulouse said.

Toulouse is the former president of the Siesta Hills Neighborhood Association. She’s well-versed on the city’s Good Neighbor agreement with the Gateway’s surrounding neighborhoods.

“The Good Neighbor agreements that the city puts out are not worth the paper they’re written on. They don’t uphold them. They put in very vague language. There’s no way for us to report and get actual action on things going on,” Toulouse said. 

She worries there will be larger encampments as the Gateway starts to serve more people.

“All of us want to help those that want to help themselves. What we’re tired of is being hurt and hindered and ignored, when what we’re experiencing is all those people who don’t want help and are looking to exploit our neighborhoods,” Toulouse said. 

But Carol Pierce – the director of Health, Housing and Homelessness in Albuquerque– sees it differently. She says the city is upholding the agreement. They meet with local neighborhood associations monthly and patrol the quarter-mile radius around the Gateway.

“Gateway as it is is not adding to the encampments. Are there encampments in our community? They are there and we’re addressing those, but what we found from that meeting is the encampments that the neighbors had given us, these were long-standing concern issues,” Pierce said.

Pierce says she sees only positive impacts on the horizon for the Southeast Heights.

“The promise that I see is to continue to build the economic piece over there on Gibson,” Pierce said. “I think the worst thing that could have happened is that that would have been an empty building, sitting over there when it was once such a vital part of our community. And it’s once again, it is a piece of our community, and it’s only building up more so.”

The Gateway is still ramping up to the 100 beds leaders announced last month – half of them are considered emergency beds, that will be available come winter.

The other 50 beds are for women utilizing the services in the Gateway. 49 of them are occupied right now.