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Bernalillo County’s Behavioral Health Initiative to Partner with Mayor Keller to Keep Westside Shelter Open Year-Round

03/01/2019

Every year, Albuquerque’s Westside Emergency Housing Center that opens in November closes again when warmer weather arrives in March. That closure leaves the more than 300 men, women, and children, served each night by the shelter, limited options to get off the streets.

That changed today. At an event at the facility, Mayor Tim Keller and Bernalillo County Manager Julie Morgas Baca joined other city and county officials and shelter managers to cement a new partnership that keeps the Westside Emergency Housing Center open year-round and increases access to services.

Mayor Keller said, “Homelessness is a harsh reality in Albuquerque and it’s going to take all of us working together to make a real impact. We’ve heard the message from residents, from businesses, from our public safety agencies, and Albuquerque is ready to make finding solutions to the homelessness crisis a priority. Extending the operations of this facility is a stop gap, but an incredibly important one, while we find solutions for year-round facilities as part of our comprehensive approach. Until then, we’re making sure that people have a place to go and better access to meals and critical services. We appreciate all of our partners across governments and in the community who are stepping up.”

"We're honored to be able to help add this needed service to the community. We see the Westside Shelter as a temporary safe haven for those experiencing homelessness and to those living with a behavioral health condition, because our ultimate goal is stability and housing. To date, our Behavioral Health Initiative has started 18 different programs that are already making progress in our community, this collaboration is another avenue for people who need behavioral health support to receive it," said County Manager Julie Morgas Baca.

Heading Home, a New Mexico non-profit that provides emergency housing, permanent supportive housing services and prioritizes street outreach to people experiencing homelessness, will continue to operate the shelter, which has been funded by the City of Albuquerque in the past.

In addition to joining the city in funding shelter operations, the county will also contribute staffing for a Community Engagement Team at the shelter that will increase access to clinical services, recovery, coping skills and other support on an individualized basis. The two entities will also work together to coordinate pickups for the Metropolitan Assessment Treatment Services at Coronado Park.

The Westside shelter is a key piece of the City’s existing homelessness service infrastructure. It serves single men, single women, and families with children experiencing homelessness, averaging 324 people per night in January 2019. Overnight capacity is 450 beds. In the past, it has been open from November to March. This winter it has served 1,263 distinct individuals. Keeping it open year-round will cost $4.6 million annually.

The county partnership mirrors other collaboration happening in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County to address the underlying causes of homelessness, including behavioral and mental health. Those staying at the shelter represent populations that the city and county are trying to serve through a variety of additional programs and services:

  • Forty-one percent of residents who have stayed at the Westside Shelter have a self-reported mental health condition.
  • Twenty-three percent have a self-reported alcohol or substance abuse condition.
  • The shelter houses families with children of all ages who would otherwise be sleeping on the streets.

The City of Albuquerque is working with the University of New Mexico, UNM Health Sciences Center, Bernalillo County, the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and a network of community-based providers on a systematic and comprehensive approach to homelessness.

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