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Pat Davis is an owner and publisher of The Paper. He also serves as an Albuquerque City Councilor and former chair of the governor's cannabis legalization work group.

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Hundreds of Albuquerque Children Face Homelessness Every Day

By Albuquerque standards, the night of January 28, 2019 was not a particularly cold one. It would get down to just about freezing Downtown but, thankfully, the afternoon’s 20 mile-per-hour winds had given way to more manageable occasional breezes, sometimes barely noticeable.

Without rain, snow or wind more of the city’s unhoused population would be sleeping in more accessible places, and that made the work of the team assembled Downtown a lot easier.

Every two years on one designated night in January, a small army of city workers and volunteers spread out across the entire city to conduct a “point-in-time count,” or census, of the city’s homeless population. They were specifically looking for children.

They found 32 unaccompanied children (under 18)—20 in emergency housing, 10 in transitional housing programs and two living out in the cold on the street. That’s a heartbreaking finding, but a notable improvement from 2017 when the total identified was 46.

But that count does not tell the full story. The count found 300 families with at least one child reporting that they had spent the previous night in a “place not meant for habitation,” which could include cars, abandoned buildings or parks, on the previous night.

Under the 1987 federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, every school system is required to have at least one liaison trained to help families struggling with housing and homelessness. APS has 20. In 2019 Albuquerque Public Schools reported that it serves between 3,000 and 4,000 students whose housing situation is nonexistent or itinerant due to economic hardship or family conditions. Those students are most likely to miss school or fall behind in online learning and social development, say experts.

And that was all before COVID-19. APS reports that it lost approximately 4,000 students between last school year and this one. No one knows how many are in unregistered homeschool programs, private schools, moved or simply lost connections with school due to the loss of housing.

Small solutions make a big difference

Faced with the results of the 2017 count, county leaders dug into the behavioral health tax fund and awarded $800,000 to New Day, Casa Q, YDI and Serenity Mesa—all organizations providing housing services for youth up to the age of 24.

Just this week city leaders announced that, after failing to spend all of the homeless service funds allocated by the federal government and city council last year, the city would be adding new housing providers to the list—including some that serve youth and families. Exactly which ones and how many they will serve remains to be seen. The next point-in-time count is scheduled for Jan. 2021, and no one believes the numbers concerning homeless youth in Albuquerque will be lower. [ ]

The APS McKinney-Vento Program accepts donations of food, clothing and school supplies for homeless students. Contact them at (505) 256-8239 to help.

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