Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

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No one should go without access to clean showers and safe facilities to lay their head down at night. That’s the city’s stance in its latest efforts to tackle accessibility to safety for the unhoused. Faith-based organizations historically have provided these charitable services. But without the proper funding, these efforts can fall short of the overwhelming need for these services. The City of Albuquerque has taken an important step toward filling the gap.

City Leaders and Pastor Joanne Landry joined Mayor Keller to announce single-stall, portable showers for unhoused neighbors in the International District. The showers are the first of their kind in Albuquerque and hopefully will be the first of many more as the city looks to invest in accessibility for its unhoused population.

“The City and our partners are always working to expand the shelter and services Albuquerque needs. It’s important that we look at all the ways we can make a positive impact in folks’ lives and help them get to a better place – from more beds on the coldest nights, to hot showers year-round,” Mayor Tim Keller said. “Most of us take things like a hot shower for granted, but it’s no small thing. It’s about dignity, the ability to keep up personal hygiene and start the day restored. It can be the difference between getting and even keeping a job.”

According to the city, the showers are only the latest in a partnership with the Compassionate Service Center in the International District. The city is increasing funding to the shelter to expand services. Currently, the shelter has a capacity for 30 people.

“Being clean and warm is critical to a person’s dignity and self respect. And it will really help someone feel ready and prepared to seek out additional resources, apply for work, and take that next step to creating a more stable and secure living situation for themselves,” Deputy Director of Homeless Solutions and Clinical Advisor Elizabeth Holguin said.

At the announcement, the mayor and several city leaders stressed the importance of these partnerships to better meet the needs of the community’s houseless population.

The showers were able to be purchased through funds from COVID Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The Solid Waste Management Department installed the portable showers.

“We want you to know that these showers are going to be bringing hope to individuals. There’s not a lot of shower resources here. But I think that if we treat those that are homeless with integrity and dignity and love, they’re going to respond and they’re going to want better for themselves,” Pastor Landry said. She is director of the Compassion Services Center and lead pastor of the Interfaith Bible Center.