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Albuquerque to consider smaller emergency homeless shelters

December 18, 2020 GMT

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — City officials in New Mexico have scrapped a plan to build one large 300-bed homeless shelter and are now considering a series of smaller facilities with at least 100 beds each throughout the community.

Mayor Tim Keller did not identify on Thursday how many emergency shelter beds would be included in one of the locations it is attempting to buy, The Albuquerque Journal reported.

Keller said the plan was “fluid” since the city has not yet purchased the former Lovelace hospital in Albuquerque. “We’ll get very definitive about beds, redesign and the game plan, but until we can actually purchase it, we’re going one step at a time,” he said.

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Family and Community Services Director Carol Pierce said city officials estimate smaller shelters could house between 100 and 150 beds.

The size and scope of the shelter component of the facility is likely to be a source of contention, officials said.

City Councilor Pat Davis said he believes current zoning would redistrict the property to 30 non-medical shelter beds and limit its community impact. However, the city planning department has said the current zoning for the Gibson site does not have a bed capacity.

Davis said he wants Keller’s administration to conduct an “honest evaluation” of resources to determine how many people could be helped at the facility before seeking conditional use approval. The zoning allows for conditional use as an overnight shelter.

“The capacity of a gateway center should depend on ability to serve people, not a desire to warehouse people out of sight,” Davis told the Journal.

Officials have said the city is expecting a population count for people living on the street in early 2021, but believes they are currently providing emergency shelter to more people than ever before with more than 700 across multiple properties.