2017 report from the National Alliance to End Homelessness notes that more than 500,000 people in the United States are experiencing homelessness. Of those, about 2,500 live in New Mexico. 

It’s a statistic The University of New Mexico is looking to change. UNM and the UNM Health Sciecnes Center is partnering with the City of Albuquerque to launch a new initiative investigating the roots of homelessness, and what can be done to curb it. 

“Addressing homelessness in Albuquerque is an all-hands-on-deck effort and starts by bringing together the greatest levels of expertise across our community,” said UNM President Garnett S. Stokes. “Together we will work to find innovative and effective solutions to improve the lives of those experiencing homelessness, as well as understanding its root causes.”

Stokes joined UNM HSC Chancellor Paul Roth and Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller in signing a Letter of Intent. The document outlines three priorities for the initiative: 

  1. Taking a comprehensive approach to the needs and concerns of people experiencing homelessness, including the underlying causes, the need for additional emergency shelter facilities, and the need for access to high-quality, coordinated health care, behavioral health, and addiction-related services;
  1. Continuing support for the existing APD-UNMHSC Crisis Intervention Team program to help respond to populations in crisis and the collaboration between Bernalillo County and UNMHSC to expand emergency behavioral health support capabilities and capacity; and
  1. Launching a Steering Committee to identify opportunities to collaborate in the above areas and to carry out the action necessary to realize the goals of the letter, and to reach out to other partners for additional collaboration as needed.

“As the state’s only academic health center, we have a significant role in the health and safety of our communities,” Roth said. “We have a critical shortage of services, providers and resources in New Mexico and now we are taking proactive steps to address these shortages and raise the overall health of our community.”

The initiative aims at pinpointing the underlying causes of homelessness in Albuquerque, and collaboratively creating support to help mitigate it.

“Homelessness is a harsh reality in Albuquerque, and we've heard from people from all walks of life that our city is ready to stop looking away and start finding solutions,” said Mayor Tim Keller. “Through this partnership, we are combining our resources and capabilities to start addressing fundamental needs from creating centralized facilities that allow for safety and dignity to increasing access to behavioral health and addiction services.”