‘The direction our city is going is just scary’: Downtown business owners push for better resources for homeless people

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Mike Rippberger’s least favorite part of his morning routine is clearing campers from the front door to his business.

Rippberger owns “Aiken Printing,” that’s been around since the 1940s. It’s in the space across from “HopeWorks” on Third Street since the 1970s. 

“This whole thing really isn’t about the homeless it’s more about the damage it’s doing to our city and the disrespect to families and property owners, businesses, everybody,” said Rippberger. 

He has seen the neighborhood gradually go downhill since HopeWorks moved in in the early 2000s.

“Whether it’s food, clothing, health, medical, all of that is really what drives the homeless to stay right here, close to the service providers. And we unfortunately, in this neighborhood are close to five or six,” said Rippberger.

Another business owner whose been a part of the Wells Park neighborhood for decades sees the same impact, streets away.

“I’ve lived in this neighborhood for close to 40 years, and we don’t recognize this neighborhood anymore. We walk out our door we’re in fear every day of our lives,” he explained.

He has been waiting around for years to see better mental health treatment options.

“They’re not getting better they’re just destroying our areas, shoplifting, destroying our neighborhoods, destroying our parks,” he said. “The models are out there for better models, the country is addressing these issues and it really boils down to mental health, behavioral health.”

Steve Decker, who recently stepped down as CEO of Heading Home, the state’s largest provider for those experiencing homelessness, agrees.

“Right now there are simply too many people on the street and not enough resources to get them the services they need. They’re being forced to sit places that no one wants to see them because they have nowhere else to go,” said Decker. 

And to the business owners in the area, he says there is still time to figure it out.

“We know we have to do things differently what we’ve been doing isn’t working. It’s just getting worse. So let’s talk let’s figure it out,” said Decker.

A representative from HopeWorks sent a statement on the issue, and allegations it’s violating its good neighbor agreement, saying:

“HopeWorks strives to be a good neighbor. We have a close relationship with the Wells Park neighborhood and work closely with the Wells Park Neighborhood Association on any issues that may impact our community. The City of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County are partners, and we work collaboratively to provide services, resources, and housing for those who need it.”