Housing project for homeless people fully funded

The fourth annual Mental Health on the Plaza event featured more than 60 providers with information tables and booths about the services they offer to people and families who are dealing with behavioral or mental health issues or addictions. (Rick Nathanson/Albuquerque Journal)

Construction will begin this fall on what will be the state’s first single-site, permanent supportive housing apartment building, it was announced Tuesday during a news conference on Civic Plaza.

The $9 million-plus project is a joint undertaking by Bernalillo County, Albuquerque and the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority.

The city and the county committed $2 million each for construction, the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority provided $4.8 million, and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas pitched in with a $420,000 grant. Bernalillo County also committed $1 million to cover recurring costs for support services.

Tuesday’s news conference was held in conjunction with the fourth annual Mental Health on the Plaza event, at which more than 60 providers set up informational tables and booths telling about the services they offer to individuals and families who are dealing with behavioral or mental health issues or addictions.

The 42-unit, single-bedroom apartment building will be known as Hope Village and will be on the Wells Park property of HopeWorks (formerly St. Martin’s), 1201 Third NW, which will also operate the facility. HopeWorks was the winning bidder in separate city and county construction and operation requests for proposals.

According to Bernalillo County Commission Vice Chairwoman Debbie O’Malley, a longtime proponent of the project, “single-site means that all of the participants will live in the same complex, that services will be conveniently available right there on the campus, and as long as housing is needed it will be provided.”

Among the on-site services will be medical care, case management, behavioral health care, rehabilitation, life skills and reintegration.

The program specifically targets the most vulnerable among the homeless population – those with behavioral or mental health issues, people with addictions and those who have a history of frequent visits to hospital emergency rooms and detox centers, as well as frequent interactions with rescue and police services, or have received psychiatric services while in the Metropolitan Detention Center.

“These are sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, cousins, friends, who up until now have not had a housing option like this,” O’Malley said.

The project is part of the county’s Behavioral Health Initiative, whose goal is to “create a system of care for individuals living with a behavioral health condition, so they don’t fall through the cracks, and so they can get the level of care appropriate for their condition, and ultimately achieve wellness and recovery,” O’Malley said.

HopeWorks advocates the “housing first” approach to dealing with homelessness, said executive director Greg Morris. “It starts with giving these people a roof overhead,” he said. “They need wraparound services, too, but you can’t really provide services to folks who you can’t find if they’re living on the streets or in a drainage tunnel or other places not fit for human habitation. The real cause of homelessness is a lack of housing for this population.”

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