Ongoing issues with homeless people at Albuquerque underpass

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Patrick Baldonado has gotten used to certain hazards around his workplace, a limo company operating out of the old Maaco building near First and Indian School.

“Just kind of don’t acknowledge and just get through as quick as possible,” he said. “You’re always just on your guard. Make sure you’re aware of your surroundings and be safe and don’t antagonize anybody. “

The underpass was full of tents, structures, and people in early March when KOB 4 first reported on the issue. Our cameras caught open drug use and clothing on fire on the sidewalk.

Weeks later, city crews and service providers cleared it out and put up fencing.

On Tuesday, most structures are still gone, but people remain.

Family and Community Services Director of Health, Housing, and Homelessness, Carol Pierce, says providers helped more than 130 people into temporary housing through hotel vouchers during the clear out in March. Today, a third of them are in permanent, supportive housing.

However, the majority either couldn’t comply with housing rules or got other services they needed like food stamps or Medicaid enrollment.

“People cannot camp where it’s not safe for them or our community. But you can’t force somebody to accept services if they’re not willing to,” said Pierce.

Business owners say part of the problem with this site is it serves as a pick-up and drop-off spot for the Westside shelter.

Pierce says it will stay that way.

“Don’t have a particular location to move to. Haven’t found an acceptable location,” said Pierce. “I will say we have a challenge where people sometimes prey upon people who are they’re just trying to get the bus to get out to services. I think it’s just important to really have the big picture on a homeless response system. It’s a system, and the city doesn’t do this alone. I think there’s some broken parts of our system, and I think that’s what we’re working hard with our partners to fix.”

Pierce says city crews clean the underpass on a daily basis.