When the city of Albuquerque purchased the Gibson Medical Center in 2021, we knew there were significant gaps in the continuum of care for our unhoused community, including a shortage of centrally located, low-barrier, emergency overnight beds. At the Gateway Center, we’re building an emergency overnight housing program that aims to transition residents into housing in 90 days. The first phase of the program, scheduled to open early 2023, will be administered by Heading Home and serve 200 women per year, with a particular focus on addressing such barriers as pets, safe personal storage and historical gaps in services for the unhoused Native American population.
Albuquerque has limited options for emergency shelters for single women without children. Our data shows there are more Native American women on the streets than Latina and white women combined. Based on the Point in Time count, we know Native Americans comprise 40% of the unhoused population on the streets, but only 20% of the population in shelters. The Gateway aims to target this gap in service by working with our Native American partners, including First Nations Community Health Source, tribal police departments and Albuquerque’s Commission on American Indian and Alaska Native Affairs, to design a space that will be especially welcoming to this population .
The goal to attain housing in 90 days is based on our community’s most successful housing programs at Heading Home’s Albuquerque Opportunity Center men’s shelter and the City’s Wellness-2 family shelter. At the Wellness Hotel, collaboration across multiple agencies has been essential to breaking down barriers and addressing each family’s multiple needs in tandem. Case managers at Wellness work closely with the APS Title-I McKinney Vento Program, Metro Court outreach staff and other service agencies to find the best housing match to meet an individual or family’s needs. The Wellness Hotel has provided valuable learning and experience, which will be replicated at the Gateway. For example, Wellness has dedicated housing vouchers for residents of the hotel, which requires multiple agencies collaborating to best use their resources. This has been an important aspect to a successful 90-day exit, along with on-site case management.
At Gateway, supportive services are all under one roof. The Engagement Center will make navigating a complicated bureaucratic system of local, state and federal programs easier by hosting office space where residents of the housing program can meet with caseworkers and receive such other essential services as identification, haircuts and group therapy. Additionally, the on-site presence of such other Gibson tenants as Turquoise Lodge and Haven Behavioral Hospital lowers the barrier to service for Gateway residents who may need addiction or behavioral health care.
The Gateway is inspired by other successful campuses around the country. The co-location of multiple services sets clients up for success as they seek housing, employment, addiction treatment or other help to reenter society. At the Gateway Center, residents of the emergency housing program will benefit from the network of supportive services built around them. The program will accept clients by referral, and will expand to families, couples and all genders in the second phase of construction.