89.9 FM Live From The University Of New Mexico
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

MON: $1M from feds would add transitional housing for homeless families, + More

Stansbury, left, and Vasquez held a news conference following a roundtable.
Roberto Rosales
City Desk ABQ
Stansbury, left, and Vasquez held a news conference following a roundtable.

$1M from feds would add transitional housing for homeless families - Damon Scott, City Desk ABQ 

This story was originally published by City Desk ABQ

Transitional housing options for Albuquerque’s women and children exiting emergency shelters are limited and waitlists are long — circumstances that can result in a return to life on the streets for families experiencing homelessness. However, $1 million in funding requested by Rep. Melanie Stansbury, D-NM, would expand housing availability for the vulnerable group.

Transitional housing programs are considered crucial to fill the gap between a shelter and permanent housing. The programs also typically provide more wraparound services than shelters, but stays are still limited — ranging from a couple of months to a couple of years. Critically, advocates say, it allows time for families to get back on their feet and become more financially stable before facing low inventories and high housing costs.

If approved, the $1 million request would come from Community Project Funding (CPF) through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Stansbury said while the final amount could increase or decrease, the need is clear.

“We need to modernize our shelters and create more transitional housing,” Stansbury said in a statement to City Desk ABQ. “These issues don’t discriminate. Housing instability and homelessness is a story that too many people in our state are experiencing.”

The Barrett Foundation operates the Barrett House, an emergency shelter that has served about 40 women and children a night for decades. It intends to submit a bid for the CPF funds, which will be overseen by the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority in a request for proposals (RFP) process.

The Barrett House recently extended its maximum six-month stay due to the lack of transitional housing options and historically high rents and home prices in Albuquerque.

“There are not enough options, and we want to ensure that families have support because we know that homelessness is traumatic — and if it’s traumatic on adults, imagine how the trauma impacts children,” Cory Lee, Barrett House CEO, said. “We’re excited about the fact that [the funding request] brings to light the issues that homeless women and children are navigating.”

Lee said that if the Barrett House is successful in its bid, it would put the $1 million toward the purchase of transitional housing apartment units.

“We are still in the early stages, but I’m looking at how it could support the purchase of a property,” she said. “We’re here to create a home and create a space where people can decompress and process the trauma of homelessness, regain their bearings, and then work to identify and maintain permanent housing.”

Lee said she’s noticed an increase in the number of Albuquerque nonprofits that serve families experiencing homelessness.

“Even though there are more organizations doing some amazing work, we’re still seeing long waitlists, which to me suggests that there are more women and children out there navigating homelessness,” she said. “All of these organizations are completely full.”

Lee added that families maneuver through the perils of homelessness differently than others and often aren’t as visible.

“We don’t have a full understanding of how many women and children are homeless on any given night because quite a few women are couchsurfing with their little ones,” she said.


Katie Simon, spokesperson for the city’s Health, Housing & Homelessness Department, said that while there are always more people in need of transitional housing than available resources, there’s positive movement.

In addition to the infusion of federal funds, she said work is being done through the city, the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness and the Homeless Coordinating Council started by Bernalillo County.

“There’s a focus on unhoused families, especially chronically unhoused families, so there is momentum at the moment to make changes to better serve families,” Simon said.

The city’s transitional housing voucher program (also called rapid re-housing), is distributed through several Albuquerque nonprofits.

“An organization administering a one- to two-year voucher from the city would pay for the family’s apartment on the private rental market and provide case management for that time period,” Simon said.

The Barrett Foundation issues vouchers, along with Catholic Charities, Crossroads for Women, Cuidando Los Niños, HopeWorks, S.A.F.E House and TenderLove Community Center.

“If there are families with severe disabilities or behavioral health issues, that’s when someone might qualify for a higher level of assistance like a permanent supportive housing voucher or other state and federal benefits,” Simon said.

There are other organizations, like Saranam, which operate campuses with living units for families in the Northeast Heights and the Westside. The city also funds emergency motel vouchers, but those are intended to provide a free room for a night or a short stay.

Family of Otero County inmate sues for negligent healthcare - Susan Dunlap, New Mexico Political Report 

The estate of an inmate at Otero County Jail, who according to a complaint, died by suicide last year, is suing the Otero County Commission due to negligent care, inhumane conditions and constitutional rights violations at the jail.

The inmate, Jacob Gutierrez, died by suicide in June 2023, according to the complaint. He repeatedly made attempts to take his life after he was detained in the Otero County Jail, the complaint states. He made two attempts to overdose on fentanyl, both of which required hospitalization, the complaint states. He told staff he wanted to kill himself and guards placed him on a suicide watch but put him in a cell that was not designed to hold an inmate who is suicidal, according to the complaint. The cell contained a payphone and guards did not check on Gutierrez every 15 minutes as they were supposed to, even after he stuck himself with a needle and guards had to remove it, according to the complaint.

Left unwatched, Gutierrez was able to use the phone cord to die by suicide, according to the complaint. His estate alleges constitutional rights violations, inhumane conditions and negligent healthcare.

The estate of Gutierrez is also suing Vital Core Health Strategies, LLC, which is “contractually responsible” for healthcare at the Otero County Jail, according to the complaint.

R.B. Nickols, Otero County attorney, said the county cannot comment on pending litigation. Vital Core Health Strategies did not respond to a request for comment.

The Gutierrez estate is suing with legal help from New Mexico Prison and Jail Project, a nonprofit legal organization trying to raise awareness about inmate constitutional rights violations.

“The jail knew Jacob was suicidal,” Mallory Gagan, an attorney at the New Mexico Prison & Jail Project, said through a news release. “He even said so to them. It was obvious that Jacob’s actions were a series of desperate cries for help. There is no plausible justification for housing a suicidal inmate in a cell with a readily-available noose without observation. This devastating outcome was entirely avoidable.”
Easing federal marijuana rules: There’s still a long way to go - Jacob Fischler, States Newsroom via Source New Mexico 

Nearly three weeks after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration proposed loosening a federal prohibition on marijuana, the next phases of policy fights over the drug’s status are starting to take shape.

Public comments, which the DEA is accepting on the proposal until mid-July, will likely include an analysis of the economic impact of more lenient federal rules.

Administrative law hearings, a venue for opponents to challenge executive branch decisions, will likely follow, with marijuana’s potential for abuse a possible issue.

Congress, meanwhile, could act on multiple related issues, including banking access for state-legal marijuana businesses and proposals to help communities harmed by the decades of federal prohibition.

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat from Oregon and longtime advocate for legalizing marijuana who’s retiring at the end of the year, is encouraging his colleagues to build on the administration’s action by taking up bills on those related issues.

The politics of the issue should favor action, even in the face of an upcoming campaign season that typically slows legislative action, Blumenauer said in a May 17 interview, noting the popularity of a more permissive approach to the drug.

“Congress may not do a lot between now and November, but they should,” the 14-term House member said. “Because it’s an election year, there’s no downside to being more aggressive.”


In a proposed rule published in the Federal Register last month, the DEA specifically asked commenters to weigh in on the economic impacts of moving the drug from Schedule I to the less-restrictive Schedule III list under the federal Controlled Substances Act.

That will likely mean the agency will consider the impact of allowing state-legal marijuana businesses to deduct business expenses from their federal taxes, Mason Tvert, a partner at Denver-based cannabis policy and public affairs firm Strategies 64, said in an interview. Under current law, no deductions are allowed.

That issue is seen by advocates, including Blumenauer and fellow Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, who chairs the tax-writing U.S. Senate Finance Committee, as paramount for the industry.

Thousands of state-legal businesses struggle to earn a profit or operate at a loss under the current system, Blumenauer said.


The DEA typically looks at three factors when assessing how strictly to regulate a drug: its medicinal value, potential for abuse relative to other drugs and ability to cause physical addiction.

A 2023 analysis by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that looked at data from states where medicinal marijuana is legal showed that “there exists some credible scientific support for the medical use of marijuana.”

That finding could lead DEA to look at other factors, Tvert said.

“The battleground that we’ll see will be around how we define potential for abuse,” he said.


But the DEA proposed rule revealed a divided view among government agencies about the drug’s potential harms, Paul Armentano, the deputy director for the longtime leading advocacy group National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, told States Newsroom.

The text of the proposed rule shows “a lack of consensus” among HHS, the Attorney General’s Office and the Drug Enforcement Administration, he said.

“There are several points in the DEA’s proposed rule where they express a desire to see additional evidence specific to concerns that the agency has about the potential effects of cannabis, particularly as they pertain to abuse potential and potential harms,” Armentano said.

“The HHS addresses those issues, but the DEA essentially says, ‘We’d like to see more information on it.’”

Kevin Sabat, the president and CEO of the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, agreed that the DEA did not appear to agree with the HHS conclusion that medical uses exist.

The proposed rule “just brings up all these issues with the HHS’s determination and it basically invites comment on all those issues,” he said.


Sabat’s group will also be petitioning for a DEA administrative hearing, he said. An administrative law judge could rule that the proposal should not go through or that it should be amended to remain stricter than the initial proposal described.

“We’re going to highlight the fact that, first of all, this does not have approved or accepted medical use,” he said.

Tvert said the accepted medical value question is likely not to be a major factor in an administrative law hearing. Several medical organizations and states that allow medicinal use have already endorsed its medicinal value, he said.

Instead, the focus will turn to the drug’s potential for abuse, he said.

“What will be critical is looking at cannabis relative to other substances that are currently II or III or not on the schedule, and determining whether cannabis should be on Schedule I when alcohol is not even on the schedules and ketamine is Schedule III.”

As of June 6, nearly 12,000 people had commented on the proposal in the 18 days since its publication.

While opinion polls show that most Americans favor liberalizing cannabis laws — a Pew Research Center survey in March found 57% of U.S. adults favor full legalization while only 11% say it should be entirely illegal — the public comments so far represent a full spectrum of views on the topic.

“This rule is a horrible idea, this should remain in Schedule I,” one comment read. “Marijuana is a gateway drug and ruins lives.”

“There are no negative side effects to its use,” another commenter, who favored “fully” legalizing the substance, wrote. “Its not harmful. The only harm is what the government has done to me and America. Shame on the people that continue to oppose this. Seriously shame on anyone that would stand in the way of this change.”


Blumenauer authored a memo last month on “the path forward” for reform as the rescheduling process plays out.

He listed four bills for Congress to consider this year.

One, sponsored by House Democrats, would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substance Act schedule entirely and expunge prior offenses.

A bipartisan bill would make changes to the banking laws to allow state-legal businesses greater access to loans and other financial services.

Another, cosponsored with Florida Republican Brian Mast, would allow Veterans Administration health providers to discuss state-legal medicinal marijuana with veteran patients.

Blumenauer has also co-written language for appropriations bills that would prevent the Department of Justice from prosecuting marijuana businesses that are legal under state or tribal law.

“All of these things are overwhelmingly popular, they’re important, we have legislative vehicles and supporters,” he said.

Still, there may be disagreements about what to pursue next.

Recent years have seen disagreements among Democratic supporters of legalization over whether to prioritize banking or criminal justice reforms.

A banking overhaul has much greater bipartisan support, and advocates on all sides of the issue agree it’s the most likely to see congressional action.

But some who support changes to banking laws in principle object to focusing on improving the business environment without first addressing the harms they say prohibition has caused to largely non-white and disadvantaged communities.

As recently as 2021, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer described banking reform legislation as too narrow. Sen. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, called it a “common-sense policy” but said that he favored a more comprehensive approach.

“I’ve gone around with Cory on that,” Blumenauer said. “More than anybody in Congress, I’m in favor of the major reforms, and we’ve been fighting for racial justice and equity … but (racial justice and banking reforms) are not mutually exclusive.”

In September, Booker agreed to co-sponsor the banking reform bill after winning a promise from Schumer that a separate bill to help expunge criminal records would also receive a vote. Neither measure has actually received a floor vote.

In a statement following the administration’s announcement on rescheduling, Booker praised the move, but called for further action from Congress.

That includes passing a bill he’s sponsored that would decriminalize the drug at the federal level, expunge the records of people convicted of federal marijuana crimes and direct federal funding to communities “most harmed by the failed War on Drugs,” according to a summary from Booker’s office.

“We still have a long way to go,” Booker said in the statement on rescheduling. “Thousands of people remain in prisons around the country for marijuana-related crimes. They continue to bear the devastating consequences that come with a criminal history.”

Blumenauer said Congress should act on the proposals that have widespread support from voters.

“This not low-hanging fruit, this is having them pick it up off the ground,” he said. “There is no other controversial issue that has as much bipartisan support that’s awaiting action.”

In the doghouse: A member of Santa Fe's K-9 unit is the focus of an internal affairs investigation - Associated Press

As a puppy, there were high hopes for Ayke to help revive the Santa Fe Police Department's K-9 program. Now, four years later, the German shepherd is in the doghouse.

He has bitten more people than any other dog in the department's K-9 unit and is the subject of an internal affairs investigation into an attack in March on one of the department's own officers. The city also is defending against a lawsuit filed by an officer who underwent plastic surgery after being attacked during a 2022 training exercise, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

Police Chief Paul Joye declined a request by the newspaper for an interview, and the investigation is ongoing into the latest incident involving Ayke, who is one of four dogs used by the department.

Like other law enforcement agencies across the nation, the Santa Fe police force contends that K-9 units can be helpful when trying to detect illicit drugs or explosive materials or apprehend suspects.

Several states earlier this year were considering legislative proposals that would impose tougher penalties for harming or killing police dogs, with supporters noting that thousands of dollars are spent on training and that in many cases the animals are like family to their handlers.

Still, injuries caused by the animals have made headlines in Ohio, Utah and elsewhere in recent years.

The Marshall Project noted in 2020 that while there was no national database for tracking the use of K-9s, an investigation found that bites were documented in nearly every state. The nonprofit group also noted that excessive force lawsuits over dog bites are difficult to win, as police officers are often shielded from liability and federal civil rights laws don't typically cover bystanders who are bitten by mistake.

In Santa Fe, Ayke is still on the job. Deputy Police Chief Ben Valdez wrote in an email that the department is confident the dog doesn't represent a danger to the public.

In response to a question about the potential drawbacks of using the dogs, Valdez responded: "Police K-9s are a valuable asset for our community, when properly utilized there are no cons."

The police department purchased each of the animals for about $4,400 and paid $2,200 for their initial certification course, Valdez said. The department spends about $4,800 annually on dog food and another $2,000 on veterinarian care.

The department requires K-9 units to complete at least 320 hours of training per year and for handlers to undergo physical and psychological well-being testing. The police dogs are certified by the Arizona-based National Police Canine Association.

Every bite by a police dog must be documented, according to Santa Fe's policy. Those instances are reviewed to determine if policy was followed and if any corrective action for the handler is needed, Valdez said.

National Weather Service forecasts more sweltering heat this week for New Mexico, Phoenix and Las Vegas areas - Associated Press

More sweltering heat appears to be headed to parts of Arizona and Nevada this week.

The National Weather Service said Sunday that an excessive heat watch is in effect Tuesday through Thursday for the Phoenix metro area plus other portions of south-central and northwest Arizona.

Temperatures could reach 111 F (43.8 C) or higher during that span.

"As we get to these first couple weeks of June, a lot of places are really starting to see those temperatures escalate," said Todd Shoemake of the National Weather Service in Albuquerque. "Southern California, southern Nevada, southwestern Arizona, they're starting to see lots of triple digits."

Last Thursday, Phoenix hit 110 F (43.3 C) for the first time this year with a record-setting high of 113 F (45 C).

Meanwhile, dangerously hot conditions are being forecast for central Las Vegas with highs ranging from 108 F (47.7 C) on Tuesday and 111 F (43.8 C) on Wednesday.

Las Vegas reached 111 F (43.8 C) last Thursday and 110 F (43.3 C) last Friday, both records for the dates by one degree Fahrenheit.

Albuquerque, where the normal high this time of year is 89 F (31.7 C), tied the record Friday of 100 F (37.7 C) set in 1981.

In New Mexico, where Albuquerque's normal high this time of year is 89 F (31.7 C), the city tied the record Friday of 100 F (37.7 C) set in 1981.

But there is more concern about rain than heat right now. Thunderstorms on Monday could lead to flash floods in the burn scar of the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire of 2022 that changed the landscape of San Miguel, Mora and Taos counties in northern New Mexico.