Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

City opening old Lovelace as shelter next week

The Gibson Health Hub, the future site of the Gateway Center, at 5400 Gibson SE, will open next week to provide emergency overnight space for 50 people who would otherwise spend the night on the streets.. (Liam DeBonis/For the )

Copyright © 2023

People who are homeless will soon start sleeping at the old Lovelace hospital on Gibson, but city of Albuquerque officials are emphasizing that the effort is separate from the same property’s forthcoming “Gateway Center.”

Whereas the years-in-the-making Gateway Center is slated to launch in April with shelter beds for 50 women who will also have access to so-called “wrap-around” services, next week’s opening is intended solely to provide emergency overnight space for 50 people – men and women – who would otherwise spend the night on the streets.

“This is simply to help people survive the cold nights, and that’s it,” said Elizabeth Holguin, deputy director in the city’s Family and Community Services Department.

FCS leaders said Wednesday that outreach teams will work specifically to bring in people from unsanctioned encampments around the city and give them an indoor place to stay during the coldest months of the year. Clients will be transported to the site in the late afternoon and bused out each morning.

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The emergency shelter is slated to open Jan 10.

The City Council on Wednesday approved a new $1.1 million contract with the nonprofit Heading Home to run the emergency shelter through April 3, and then to operate elements of the Gateway Center for three months after that.

Councilor Pat Davis – whose district encompasses the Gateway property at 5400 Gibson SE – raised questions about the city’s readiness to open the site for overnight stays. He was among three councilors who voted against the contract, saying he did not believe the city had yet met its obligations under the “good neighbor” agreement it has with the community surrounding the Gateway Center.

Even though it is not the Gateway Center, he said next week’s opening will be the first time the city shelters people who are homeless at the site and neighbors will be upset if the city has not lived up to expectations regarding exterior lighting upgrades, area clean – up and more.

He said he recognized the need for an emergency shelter, but “it feels like we’re rushing this just a bit, and that concerns me.”

Family and Community Services Director Carol Pierce said in an interview that the city has met its “good neighbor” responsibilities and that regular meetings with neighbors will allow them to voice any future concerns.

She said the emergency shelter is needed right now as an alternative to the existing shelter on the far West Side – where some people refuse to go – and the streets themselves.

“We wanted more options for people in town,” she said.

Also: The council on Wednesday postponed a vote on legislation that would replace the city’s existing zero-fare program on city buses with a system that requires riders to show a pass or pay a fare.

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