It is all too easy to judge the homeless population, especially when you are gainfully employed, but many of us could easily find ourselves in their shoes if we were going through a tough divorce where our ex-partner took advantage of the finances, if we were laid off and struggling to find another job, or if we were trying to overcome a serious addiction.
Coronado Park was a dangerous place, and the Mayor of Albuquerque—Tim Keller—has made the decision to shut it down.
"The years-long surrender of Coronado Park to the crime and chaos of a large homeless camp has come to an end. That’s good news, and we commend Mayor Tim Keller for his decision to shut it down. Not only has the park been dangerous — home to stabbings, homicides and a significant drug trade — it has created miserable conditions for commerce and living for the businesses and residents in the surrounding area. Worse yet, Coronado Park has symbolized a city not in full control of its streets and a homelessness policy too accommodating of destructive behavior. With the mayor’s announcement, we are glad to see things moving in a different direction." —Peter Lorenz and Terri Cole
While this was a good decision, especially when one takes the safety concerns into account, it is of the utmost importance that we as a community do our best to empathize with the homeless population: we do not know their story or how they ended up sleeping on the pavement, but what we do know is that these people desperately need help.
"We need to restore a sense of balance to how we address homelessness in Albuquerque...we should be a servicedelivery powerhouse. We should provide safe sheltering, access to various forms of temporary and transitional housing, food and clothing, medical treatment, enrollment support for public assistance, ID recovery and more. This is what a compassionate, caring community does." —Peter Lorenz and Terri Cole
That being said, boundaries do need to be enforced so that everyone in the community feels as safe and comfortable as possible.
"Our city is not a campground. We need to say that. And then enforce it. Those who are experiencing homelessness have the freedom to take the significant help offered to them or not, but if they don’t, it must be clear they cannot camp day after day on our streets, next to our businesses and in our parks." —Peter Lorenz and Terri Cole
Many are concerned that safe outdoor spaces would soon become dangerous for residents in the area and the homeless population alike.
"Going forward, we...encourage the City Council to abandon an encampment strategy. Whether you call them 'safe outdoor spaces' or something else, any policy that encourages our city to be used as a campground is not a good one. Forgive our skepticism, but most businesses — and likely most residents — don’t believe a sanctioned homeless camp would be either safe or small for very long. And the proliferation of homeless camps — however they’re constituted — would not make our community a safer place or help us attract talent, tourists, new residents or employers." —Peter Lorenz and Terri Cole
Sometimes, the most effective form of compassion goes hand in hand with strong boundaries and a genuine willingness to help people recover and move on with their lives to the best of their ability.
"Finally, our Chamber of Commerce has been a strong proponent of the Gateway Center, a large-scale 24/7 shelter located nearer to the city’s core than other existing overnight shelters, where services can be co-located and coordinated and first responders can drop off the homeless for a safe night’s stay, detoxification, medical care or other help. It’s a model that has been proven to work. Voters approved the Gateway Center project several years ago, as did the City Council. The administration found a suitable location for it, one that isn’t 20 miles outside of town — at a former medical center, no less. Now, the full intent of the Gateway Center needs to be realized. It’s time for the appeals and delays to end." —Peter Lorenz and Terri Cole
The Gateway Center should be fully opened as quickly as possible, considering that many are in dire need of help.
"We urge the City Council to do whatever it takes to move the full opening of the Gateway Center forward. It should serve a large population each day – of single homeless adults, in particular. Shuttles from across the city, as well as first responders, should continually take those in need of help to the facility, where they find service providers working together to meet them, treat them and get them back on their feet." —Peter Lorenz and Terri Cole
As with nearly every issue, a healthy dose of balance is required to take actions that serve everyone in the community.
"In our view, Albuquerque’s homeless issue does not have to be a hopeless issue. We can do right by the homeless and right by our residents and businesses. We can defend the integrity of our streets, parks and property while also helping those in need." —Peter Lorenz and Terri Cole