Prosperity & Poverty, Homelessness & Housing
It doesn’t take more than a trip down Central in some parts of town to see that Albuquerque has a poverty problem. Homeless people spills out of shelters into the surrounding neighborhoods with nowhere to go. Many citizens wouldn’t even need to leave their homes to see this problem. As New Mexico sinks to the bottom in national rankings with the highest unemployment in the nation, people struggle to find jobs that keep a roof over their heads and provide security for their families. Money meant for housing and public transportation gets spent with little to show for it because of the current city administration’s mismanagement of these funds.
Unemployment, homelessness, lack of affordable housing and bad mental health resources are all related; they are a cycle. These problems feed into each other, trapping people in poverty and dragging our whole city in with them.
Mayor Berry has done little to fix this. Last November, we learned that over a million dollars meant to convert existing spaces into affordable housing mismanaged and misspent the money so badly that the federal agency that granted the money, Housing and Urban Development (HUD), has demanded a refund out of the taxpayers’ pockets. While Mayor Berry’s “There’s A Better Way” program claims to have “cleared” 92 city blocks of visible homelessness, it has done little more than sweep the problem under the rug and down to the next block. By 2016, it had found permanent housing for only 5 people. The working poor, the homeless, and all the taxpayers of Albuquerque deserve better.
Each struggling population of this city requires a different approach. The “housing first” model that has been so effective Utah has shown that even in the face of other factors, such as drug use and mental health and disability issues, providing homeless people with housing is the most effective way of reducing homelessness. We need leaders who will embrace this sort of evidence-based, non-punitive policy to transform our city. We don’t need to funnel money into programs and shelters that have consistently failed to put in people in permanent housing. For families and individuals who work for low wages or maybe can’t find work at all, we need jobs that provide higher wages and a tax structure that benefits the local businesses that provide these jobs. We don’t need more tax breaks and city investment in projects that never materialize or can’t provide a decent number of well-paying jobs. By listening to the people, by being accessible and accountable to her city, Stella Padilla will embrace these innovative but proven methods for improving our city.