Santa Fe approves plan for Safe Outdoor Spaces

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SANTA FE, N.M. — Finding solutions to help the homeless population is something cities and counties across New Mexico are working on. Now there’s a new plan moving forward in Santa Fe. The city council overwhelmingly approved a resolution to allow the city to set up Safe Outdoor Spaces.

The spaces will be put together in partnership with faith-based organizations in town. But city organizers want to be clear these are not tent camps – instead the city has ordered pallet homes that will go up once they designate sites.

The Santa Fe City Council approved the Safe Outdoor Space resolution Wednesday night with seven votes in favor of the project. Organizers from the city’s Youth and Family Services Department and the Community Health and Safety Department are moving forward on gearing up for the next steps.

“Our next step is to purchase the pallet shelters and then to release the competitive solicitation which will invite site owners and faith-based organizations and providers to respond,” Community Health and Safety Department Director Kyra Ochoa said.

The city plans on buying 25 of these pallet homes. They are like tiny homes without kitchens or bathrooms. The plan is to partner with faith-based organizations to host these safe spaces and help connect the homeless population with services like counseling, job training, and case management.

“When the faith community and the wider community in Santa Fe started getting excited about this idea that was the game changer for us the fact that a faith-based organization would take this on is huge and proven really effective in Colorado,” Ochoa said.

But they understand not everyone will be on board with these spaces – so part of the resolution that passed Wednesday night requires all potential spaces to form good neighbor agreements with surrounding businesses and residents.

“There is going to be tension and tension is good as long as we keep coming to the table to talk about it and that is where the good neighbor agreement has value,” Youth and Family Services Department Director Brittany Rodriguez said.

The resolution has some strict requirements as well as who can set up a safe space.

“Our land use director that has been very deeply involved in this work, he put together a checklist for anybody who applies to make sure these are feasible site,” Rodriguez said.

Along with the pallet homes, these sites will need electricity, 24/7 security, hygiene units, fencing, access to transportation, on-site counselors, and they will need to serve at least one meal a day.

As of right now, there are no specific sites approved. The city hasn’t even opened up the application process but organizers say if everything goes smoothly they hope to open their first Safe Outdoor Space by the end of the summer.