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Albuquerque City Council nixes resolution to help along designated encampments

Albuquerque City Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn introduced a memorial urging the New Mexico state legislature to repeal the ban on October 3, 2022 during a city council meeting.
City of Albuquerque
Albuquerque City Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn on October 3, 2022 during a city council meeting.

This week, the Albuquerque City Council rejected a move to make it easier to create safe outdoor spaces for people experiencing homelessness. This comes in the wake of an injunction from a judge to create more indoor shelter space for folks on the street. The injunction also limits clearing of encampments, as well as jails and fines for people sleeping outside.

One city councilor says the city could have responded to the injunction with additional safe spaces and it needs to do more.

To address encampments until enough shelter beds are made available, the city put forward a plan to create “safe outdoor spaces.” Landowners, like churches and nonprofits, can apply to create such a space if they meet certain requirements. But only two organizations have been successful in this so far.

“There seems to be just a belief that the judge is wrong, and I guess my take is I'm not a judge. I'm not an attorney. I don't know if the judge is right or wrong, but I know that the injunction is happening,” Councilwoman Tammy Fiebelkorn said.

She proposed a resolution at Wednesday night’s city council meeting to limit the appeals process of “safe outdoor spaces” in order to quickly create more of them. It would also have directed city staff to find locations for three spaces and submit applications for them.

“It's pretty clear in the injunction that the judge is saying, ‘Do more. Offer more,’” she said. “We're not doing more. We're not offering more.”

Fiebelkorn said the appeals process can make it difficult for groups wanting to create a “safe outdoor space.” Many do not have the resources to pay attorneys to help them navigate all the way through it.

The resolution failed 5-4 at the meeting, with several city council members, including Brook Bassan, saying the resolution would take away their constituents’ rights to be heard.

“I do not accept the fact that we should take away the public's right to appeal something such as this,” Bassan said.

The injunction went into effect on November 1st.

This coverage is made possible by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and KUNM listeners. 

Megan Myscofski is a reporter with KUNM's Poverty and Public Health Project.
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