As our troubled globe hurdles through space at about 390 kilometers per second, it’s about to be winter in the northern hemisphere and summer in the south. Viz.: Here we have illustrations of snowy, sometimes even alpine locations to provide context for the winter holidays, while in Australia, they have shore scenes and Santa seems uncomfortable in velour enrobements, preferring instead, a relaxed, barefoot and beachy look for what are naturally considered to be summery holidays.
Here in el norte meanwhile, in the high desert, late fall and winter—and their unpredictably damn cold weather spells—are no laughing matter. It’s tough out there, let me tell you. The day before Thanksgiving I decided to get some take away from one of mi favoritos, Garcia’s Kitchen. I placed the order on the phone headed out the door en mis chanclas. My wife was already ahead of me, walking toward the car when I realized I had forgotten my keys and wallet. The next hour passed grimly while we awaited rescue.
Now bourgie homies—myself included—imagine a world where being locked out of opportunities for shelter, clothing, food and even proper identification was not an anomaly solved by a kind landlord, but something normative in a life marked by privation and consequently desperation. I’ll tell you dudes, after 45 minutes, I began considering how to break in and would have progressed to making plans, if not for intervention from greater forces.
In my case that was someone with a key who was willing to cut short a family dinner to help. But for your typical homeless citizen in Burque, fortune is not so easily found.
And yes, Mr. teevee news reporter—who went around town last week asking experts if the homelessness in Albuquerque seems to have gotten worse—I do perceive the problem has grown in number and in scope. Even the nonprofit types quoted in the station’s investigative report admitted that keeping track of the number of homeless in this town is a daunting task.
Though Weekly Alibi reported on homelessness in Burque this past summer, it’s important now to follow up, this time experientially and practically. While we also found local authorities hopeful about declining numbers of homeless in the Duke City, it does seem the number ebbs and flows seasonally. As winter approaches North America, summertime street habitations like Kansas City and Omaha, Neb., become too cold to sustain humans living without basic resources.
So they head south. I met a couple from Missouri who were stuck at the Smith’s on Central and Coors, trying to scratch up feria for a hotel room. The man told me it was really cold here—and had frostbitten fingers under his ragged gloves to prove it—but at least the sun shone during the day. I gave them a Lincoln.
I happen to drive around town quite a bit as part of my job. I report that there are panhandlers stationed around the freeway exits on I-40 and I-25—and at most larger intersections from Tramway and Montgomery to Atrisco and Central—that under the bridges, along the cement arroyos and sometimes at the entrances to our city’s extensive storm sewer system some humans seem to have camped out without much interference from the authorities.
Driving past the city parks on Third and I-40 and Lomas and I-40, whole settlements made of vinyl, cardboard boxes and shopping carts seem to rise and fall and rise again every day. It seems like only the most obvious of these outposts are ever found out and removed by the city.
Walking through the bosque by mi chante the other day, I spied a bright blue tent far ahead on the path and heard three distinct voices; one was that of a child. But I kept my distance. So much like the people that utilize them, the shanty-towns of Albuquerque are everywhere and nowhere at once: ghostly yet omnipresent.
But I guarantee that they are alive and that they are here among us. And that ultimately, they are us. And since it’s the holidays and this happens to be this newspaper’s last minute gift guide I’m going to personally ask our readers to make a gift of caring and of giving.
First care about our homeless citizens enough that you can drop what you’re doing to do the right thing. The city has plenty of volunteer opportunities to help provide emergency assistance, food and shelter to the vulnerable within our city. I’m sure you can also spare a few dollar bills; let them fly out your pocket, singly or in pairs, and at random to the poor you encounter on a daily basis.
Most importantly you, dear reader, can support legislation to improve resettlement services and programs that provide help with occupational rehab and mental health services like Home Again and the city/county funded Tiny Home Village that will begin construction on the corner of Zuni and Texas in April 2019.
Not surprisingly Mayor Tim Keller lists the problems and issues surrounding homelessness in Albuquerque as one of his top priorities with regards to the upcoming 60-day state Legislative session.
Keller was quoted as saying, “We know that as New Mexico’s largest city, Albuquerque has the potential to impact the rest of the state. With this legislative agenda, our city can help lift up the entire state by tackling crime from all sides, increasing economic opportunity, addressing homelessness and stepping up for our kids. We’re setting our sights on tangible projects that can make a real difference in our communities.”
Keller and his administration aim to address homelessness in the city by having the state earmark and use operating funds for an emergency shelter with crisis triage support that would operate 24 hours, 7 days a week. The administration also proposes the construction of two centrally located shelter facilities for the city, with on-site supportive services to help those struggling to obtain long-term housing.
The rest of Keller’s legislative wishlist—which is just holiday jargon, after all, as a progressive state Legislature and Dem administration is much more likely to yield positive results, funding-wise—focuses on public safety, better access to education opportunities, the local economy and making the city’s physical aspect more inclusive and usable to all.
On public safety, Keller asks the state Santa for the following:
• Radio conversion technology for better coordination between all emergency service providers in Albuquerque and the surrounding area, including UNM Security, the Bernalillo County Sherriff’s Department, APS Security and Albuquerque Ambulance.
• DNA processing automation to help resolve the rape kit backlog and ensure timely processing in the future.
• Create a dedicated fund to help support public safety and infrastructure and equipment needs throughout the state.
• Funding for electronic gunshot detection to address violent crime.
• Supplemental support for the APD Gun Intelligence Center to solve gun related crimes.
• Updates to the APD Academy to better equip police officers for community policing.
• Anti-auto theft technology funding to decrease auto theft and solve auto theft crimes.
• Bunker gear to prevent risk of contracting cancer among first responders.
Meanwhile, educational initiatives desired by by Keller and co. but potentially made possible by the Legislature include:
• The administration is seeking funding for two additional Westside child development centers as well as more funding for existing city pre-k programs in an attempt to expand childhood learning opportunities in Burque.
• Funding for a new public library in the International District will expand and support current employment and learning opportunities and continue to build a sense of community in the area.
Keller is keen on growing our city’s economy and so seeks state guidance to implement or assist with economic growth programs like these:
• Adding Railrunner stops, particularly one at Balloon Fiesta Park
• Roadway improvements at Central and Unser will anticipate a coming period of massive growth on the Westside.
• Increasing opportunities for professional training in the film industry
• Funding to repair parts of the KiMo Theatre
• Full state funding for the Local Economic Development Act
In terms of making El Duque more inclusive, useable and just plain cool, our new progressive overlords propose the following with legislative oversight:
• Physical upgrades to sidewalks and intersections throughout the city with ADA compliance in mind
• Upgrades to the Animal Welfare Department that will ensure that animals in the city’s care are always safe and healthy, so they can find forever homes
And, well, the planet didn’t stop moving while you were reading through all of that; neither should anyone sentient on its surface, we reckon. Happy gift-giving!