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New Mexico Homeless Shelters Filling Up Quickly

At least 17,000 people experience homelessness in New Mexico in the course of a year, according to New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness. (
At least 17,000 people experience homelessness in New Mexico in the course of a year, according to New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness. (
November 4, 2019

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The homelessness crisis across the country is largely blamed on a lack of affordable housing, and New Mexico is no exception.

When temperatures dropped below freezing earlier than expected last month, homeless shelters scrambled to accommodate those in need.

Edward Archuleta, executive director of the St. Elizabeth Shelter in Santa Fe, says many who are homeless have serious health problems, but even those with Section 8 federal housing assistance find themselves priced out of the city's available housing.

"Drug and alcohol abuse, mental health issues – you know, the government's just not putting enough money into services to help folks like that,” he states. “But the other big problem is affordable housing.

“We have clients here who have good jobs, they've been saving money or they have Section 8 vouchers that are good for up to $1,000 – they can't find anything."

The American Public Health Association says today's homeless population is more diverse than in the past and includes women, children, teens, families and people of all races.

Besides St. Elizabeth's, which does not accept people who've been using drugs or alcohol, Santa Fe has a second shelter with a waiting list.

Two years ago, Geneva Martinez began allowing homeless individuals to sleep in her yard. Since then, she founded the Roswell Homeless Coalition and opened a shelter.

Martinez says like many other parts of the country, the housing selection is narrow – and after 90 days in a shelter, options are even more limited.

"We have rules of 90 days, but after 90 days you have to have a job, but we can't find them affordable housing,” she explains. “So, I think we're all at that point where we see that it's putting a band-aid on this problem, and the real solution is affordable housing."

Beyond affordable housing, homeless lives often are marked by poverty, malnutrition, unemployment and physical disabilities.

Hank Hughes, executive director of the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness, says this time of year, shelters are always looking for donations, but also kindness from the community.

"The danger of frostbite or hypothermia increases among people who are homeless,” he points out. “Of course, if people are traveling while they're homeless, they may not know where shelters are, So, it'd be good for people to direct people to the nearest shelter."

In addition to Santa Fe and Roswell, New Mexico has shelters open or homeless services available in Albuquerque, Farmington and Taos.

Disclosure: New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness contributes to our fund for reporting on Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault, Housing/Homelessness. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Roz Brown, Public News Service - NM