Opponents of a planned project to house homeless people came out in force to a meeting Thursday night in the Four Hills neighborhood in southeast Albuquerque.
Three of Bernalillo County’s possible locations for the village of tiny homes are in Four Hills.
Nearly 300 people showed up, mostly older folks who live in the Four Hills area. Many of them came out because they don’t want the village anywhere in their neighborhood.
You could feel the tension in the room. There were lots of crossed arms and furrowed brows from the start. When County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley came out, she did not receive a warm welcome. She’s spearheading the project.
The tiny home village project would have up to 35 extra-small houses sitting on an acre of land. The point is to get homeless people back on their feet.
Janet Thompson has lived in Four Hills since the 80’s.
“I don’t know who this project is targeted to,” she said.
She said she likes the intention behind the project, but she believes its creators haven’t thought it out all the way.
“This project will not help families, it will not take children,” she said. “It isn’t for somebody who is temporarily homeless.”
And she’s right. Couples can move in, but families can’t. And the village is targeting people who’ve been homeless for years, not just a few months.
The residents will live in their tiny homes for two-year periods. And part of the plan is to connect them to mental health services. But Thompson says moving people with those kinds of needs into the area will only make things worse.
“If this is a mental health initiative, great. We need it. Find a place to put it,” Thompson said. “Don’t put it where we already have homeless veterans, homeless women.”
Andy Najar was one of a few people who spoke in favor of the project. He’s a case manager with Catholic Charities’ housing department where he’s worked with people experiencing homelessness for nearly two decades.
“They want their own life,” he said. “They need the chance to have their own space to live and do what they want to do; their hobbies.”
Najar lives in Four Hills, too, and said he wouldn’t mind having the village nearby.
“This could happen to any one of us,” he said. “We’re all like a day away from being homeless.”
Each tiny home would measure just over 100 square feet and could cost up to $20,000. There would be common bathrooms and a shared kitchen. Residents would pay $50 a month.
Kenneth Segura Knoll told the crowd that he doesn’t think it should be any one neighborhood’s burden to house homeless people.
There was a lot of agreement.
The city will need to maintain the village to make it successful, Segura Knoll said and that means the county will have to pour lots of cash into the village.
“As a homeowner, it takes a lot of money to maintain their home. Same thing with these little homes,” he said. “They may be little homes, but they’ll have to be maintained.”
Two other possible locations for the village of tiny homes are in the International District and one is in Southwest Albuquerque. Residents can weigh in at two more public meetings scheduled in those neighborhoods next week.
The county is accepting public comment on the project through early September.
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