Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Albuquerque homeless count declines –

With legs protruding from a tent, homeless people earlier this month take refuge from the midday sun at an encampment near Utah and Zuni SE. (Roberto E. Rosales, )

There were 256 fewer homeless people in Albuquerque in January 2022 than there were in January 2021, according to a just-released report summarizing the Point-In-Time count.

The PIT count was done by the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness on Jan. 31. It is a snapshot of a single night showing where people experiencing both unsheltered and sheltered homelessness slept that night. The cold weather that day may have resulted in a lower homeless count.

Of Albuquerque’s 1,311 homeless, 940 stayed in emergency shelter, 174 were in “transitional housing,” and 197 were unsheltered.

The federal department of Housing and Urban Development requires the count to be conducted by communities across the country that accept federal funds for homelessness programs.

The report showed that among the unsheltered homeless, 67% were chronically homeless; 9% were veterans; 46% reported serious mental illness; and 44% reported a substance use disorder.

Asked why they didn’t use the emergency shelter system, the most common answers included a lack of transportation, overcrowding at the shelters, a fear of getting COVID, and concerns about the shelter staff.

The report also noted what it called “racial disparities” of the homeless, particularly Native Americans.

Among Albuquerque’s unsheltered population, more than 23% were Native American; more than 9% were Black; more than 17% identified as being of two or more races. Among those staying in emergency shelters, nearly 15% were Native American and more than 9% were Black.

In the areas outside Albuquerque, identified as “Balance of State” or BOS, just over 28% of the unsheltered homeless were Native American and over 5% were Black; of the sheltered BOS homeless, nearly 15% were Native American and 9.7% were Black.

The 2020 census reports that Native Americans account for about 11.2% of New Mexico’s population, while the Black population accounts for 2.7% of the state’s population.

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According to the PIT summary report, the reliability of the homeless count “can be influenced by many factors, such as number of enumerators, community engagement, understanding of training, location and time of survey and weather.”

In addition, the data is self-reported directly from those homeless people willing to participate in the survey.

Tony Watkins, the coalition’s director for homeless assistance, said cold temperatures on Jan. 31 were a factor in this year’s count.

The Albuquerque Department of Family and Community Services, which partners with the coalition on homeless issues, said of the report: “We always appreciate new data from the Point-In-Time count, but we know that it’s an undercount. We need to base our services and solutions on the situation today, not yesterday, or six months ago when the count was taken.”

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