Saturday, September 30, 2023

Hope Village Opens Its Arms

Non Profit Fills a Gap for the Unhoused


Hope Village, a one-stop housing project just north of Downtown, opened its doors to the community on Thursday. The state-of-the-art facility will offer houseless members of the community housing, mental, behavioral and medical services and will provide basic needs for residents.

According to Chief Development and Communications Officer Rachel Rodriguez, the 42-unit facility was conceived after a 2020 report commissioned by the City of Albuquerque reported that "Albuquerque needs an additional 15,500 rental units affordable to households with extremely low incomes, as well as 2,200 units of supportive housing and 800 units of rapid rehousing for people experiencing homelessness."

HopeWorks, a non-profit organization focused on ending houselessness and providing services to the city's unhoused, took on the challenge. In a partnership with the City of Albuquerque, Bernalillo County, Mortgage Finance Authority, National Housing Trust and Wells Fargo, HopeWorks raised the $12 million budget for Hope Village. The facility was designed in conjunction with Doug Heller (Mullen Heller Architects). The HopeWorks team and Heller worked with Wells Park Neighborhood Association to address concerns and won the association's blessing for the project. 

The total cost of Hope Village was $12 million. The 42-unit facility will have on staff a Program Director, Supportive Housing Case Manager, Peer Support Worker and four Tenant Support Workers (who rotate for 24/7 coverage). Staff will provide day-to-day support for residents along with planning community activities, which will include biking, poetry and life skills.

The facility will also provide residents with Psycho-Social Recovery Program (PSR), a personal recovery program in a clubhouse format. Members of the program will engage in social outings in a shared communal space to build a sense of community. An Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) program will also be deployed. Known as a "hospital without walls," the program offers highly individualized care for residents (nursing, therapy, case management, etc.).

Prospective applicants will have to meet the federal definition of "homelessness" or "precariously housed," have a documented mental, emotional or behavioral disorder; have an income at or below 30% AMI; or other other eligibility requirements, including a score of 13 or higher on a commonly used "vulnerability index" (VI-SPDAT).

Ongoing operating costs will consist of rent payments and programming supported in part by Bernalillo County. The County and the City of Albuquerque both contributed $2 million to the project. City Councilor Isaac Benton, whose district includes the single-stop housing facility, has supported the project from its inception and spoke at the facility's opening.  

City Councilor Isaac Benton Speaking At The Facility's Public Debut

New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority (MFA), a historical advocate for the city's unhoused, was the first contributor to the project. MFA committed the first $3 million. 

The project is a testament to shifting approaches to ending houselessness. Traditional methods such as criminalizing houselessness, addiction and vagrancy have not been successful. Providing housing for the unhoused is still considered a fringe policy in the U.S. but has proven to be one of the most effective methods to address the problem. 

Utah was one of the first states to implement a "housing first" approach to its homeless in 2005. Although the state does not have nearly as many houseless residents as California, Texas or Georgia, the sparsely populated Western state still set an ambitious goal of eradicating houselessness. And that's exactly what they did. By providing shelter and services to its unhoused residents, Utah reduced its homeless population from 2,000 in 2005 to around 200 in 2015. 

With the city's increasing emphasis on affordable housing, Albuquerque may soon see an end to chronic homelessness and housing insecurity. Hope Village is just one of the first steps. 

City leaders announced that they are considering creating designated houseless camps in vacant dirt lots for individuals not quite ready for permanent housing. The city is looking at lots that are near services and away from residential areas.


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