ABQ safe outdoor spaces advance despite opposition

Dawn Legacy Pointe’s encampment will be located on 1250 Menaul Blvd. NE. Photo by Junko Featherston/ NM News Port

Junko Featherston/ NM News Port

Albuquerque’s first sanctioned outdoor homeless encampment is scheduled to open this winter but it still needs to survive legal challenges—and find enough funding to get up and running.

The City Council this summer approved the nonprofit Dawn Legacy Pointe’s application to open a monitored encampment focusing on survivors of sex trafficking at 1250 Menaul Blvd. N.E., near the Big I. A nearby neighborhood association appealed the decision saying they were already “living in fear” and the appeal will be heard at a City Council meeting Sept. 28. 

Dawn Legacy Pointe’s Site Plans. Kylea Good, 2022

It was projected to open near the end of the year but program managers are waiting on money from the city to hire a community manager and buy tents, toilets, showers and storage.

“We don’t know how long things are going to take. The funding right now is an issue. We have to hope we get past this bureaucratic hurdle,” said Dawn Legacy Pointe founder Kylea Good.

Meanwhile, the Albuquerque City Council has approved two additional Safe Outdoor Spaces aiming to serve people living in their cars. 

Opponents argue the controversial Safe Outdoor Spaces are dangerous and unsightly, while supporters say they can provide temporary relief while people prepare for permanent housing and take pressure off public parks where people have been camping. 

Councilman Pat Davis said the spaces are a new way of addressing problems with homelessness that current programs have failed to solve.

Councilman Pat Davis. City of Albuquerque

“We’re funding the wrong kinds of service and shelter,” Davis said. “We have people sleeping in their cars because they have pets, and not enough shelters that take people with pets. We have shelters that have vacant beds because they have to pass a background check and you can’t get one of those at 11 o’clock at night, when it’s freezing out.”

Safe Outdoor Spaces are not designed to provide emergency overnight shelter but to give people time and space to get themselves organized and hopefully focus on bigger issues like finding work and transition to housing, Good said.

Dawn Legacy Pointe residents will have to go through an application and interview process before admission. Those who are accepted must follow rules barring drug use, weapons, fights or illegal activity. Residents are required to perform service for the community and coordinate with a case manager. 

“At some point this winter, the Gibson Medical Gateway Center will open. Though, we don’t have a deadline. That will be sort of a triage place for people who need overnight emergency services.” Councilman Davis says. 

Junko Featherston is a half-Okinawan New Mexican, born and raised in Albuquerque. She is currently a senior majoring in multimedia journalism and minoring in Japanese language. You can follow her on Twitter @UNMJunko