The Albuquerque city government is considering where to build a new emergency shelter for people experiencing homelessness. Voters last month approved $14 million in bonds for the new facility, but what it will look like, and where, are still to be determined.
In the leadup to the November vote, the city put out a mockup of a 30,000-square-foot building they called the Gateway Center. That sparked concerns among advocates who said that, compared to a number of smaller shelters, one big central site could be intimidating or even traumatic to people who are unhoused and looking for services.
That plan is not set in stone, said Lisa Huval, Deputy Director of Housing and Homelessness with the city’s Department of Family and Community Services. She says they’re open to ideas on how the new emergency shelter, or shelters, should look and feel.
“If this does end up being one site, we could have multiple buildings on one site to kind of break down the size," said Huval. "Even access points, like maybe families could come in one way on the site, maybe single women come in one way, men could come in another way. All of that is just a design challenge that we’re very cognizant of, and we just want to be thinking about it right from the start.”
Huval says the goal is to add a few hundred emergency shelter beds by 2022, replacing the Westside shelter, a former jail on the far outskirts of town.
The city also plans to ask the state Legislature for an additional $14 million in capital funds for the project next year.
There will be another chance to comment on Monday night, when the City Council is expected to vote on Mayor Tim Keller’s choice of local firm Mullen Heller Architecture to design the new 24/7 shelter.