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Albuquerque Human Rights Board fights back against anti-homeless sentiment

Last year, Albuquerque authorities closed an encampment in the city's Coronado Park
Gino Gutierrez
Source NM
In 2022, Albuquerque authorities closed an encampment in the city's Coronado Park. The city's Human Rights Board has seen a rise in anti-homeless sentiment as more people have been experiencing homelessness, and have been more visible.

The city of Albuquerque’s Human Rights Board is seeking public input on how to curb what it says is a recently growing problem — discrimination and violence against people experiencing homelessness.

Two people have been arrested in just the last month for shooting and killing someone experiencing homelessness in separate incidents, one of whom laughed and bragged about doing so, according to a criminal complaint.

Chair of the Human Rights Board Anami Dass said the board regularly hears of violence and discrimination against people who are unhoused.

"Business owners chasing folks off their property or, sadly, I’ve heard reports of people going out driving and just finding a person experiencing homelessness and beating them up," she said.

Dass said her organization has seen a rise in anti-homeless sentiment driven in part by the number of people experiencing homelessness and their visibility growing over the last three years.

The board is considering recommendations for amending the city’s hate crime ordinance to protect people based on housing status.

But Dass said what she most wants to see is, "A change of heart around the conversations that go into making policies that humanize people experiencing homelessness instead of othering them and further marginalizing them."

"The way we treat people who need us the most says the most about us," she said.

Dass said, as part of that, the board would like to ensure people experiencing homelessness have their basic needs met through improving access to public restrooms and clean drinking water, for example.

The board is hosting a public hearing this month to solicit testimony and evidence about the problem and input on potential solutions. It is also accepting written and audio comments by email for those who cannot attend.

The hearing will take place next week, on June 22, at 1:00 p.m. at the International District Library.

Daniel Montaño is a reporter with KUNM's Public Health, Poverty and Equity project. He is also an occasional host of Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Let's Talk New Mexico since 2021, is a born and bred Burqueño who first started with KUNM about two decades ago, as a production assistant while he was in high school. During the intervening years, he studied journalism at UNM, lived abroad, fell in and out of love, conquered here and there, failed here and there, and developed a taste for advocating for human rights.
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