Reena Szczepanski at (505) 699-0798 or Hank Hughes at (505) 660-8845
A Memorial creating a “Housing First Taskforce” passed the Senate by a 36 to 2 margin today. Senate Memorial 2, sponsored by Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino, (D-Albuquerque), directs the Taskforce to develop plans, strategies, and recommendations to find solutions for homelessness in New Mexico. “We’re just trying to get people into a safe and secure space to deal with their other problems.” said Senator Ortiz y Pino. “This is about catching people at the front end, people with heroin addictions, people who are released from mental hospitals, people who have alcohol problems, and getting them into housing.”
Advocates praised the Senate for supporting long term solutions for homelessness. “We’re really appreciative of the Senate for passing this Memorial. It means we can move forward with Housing First as the way to end homelessness in New Mexico,” said Hank Hughes, director of the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness.
The Taskforce will improve housing and supportive services available to people experiencing homelessness, particularly people with addictions, and people coming out of jail or prison. “A key task for this taskforce will be to develop effective housing solutions for people with addictions,” said Reena Szczepanski, director of Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico. “How do we expect someone to succeed in a recovery program, when they don’t even have a place to live?”
Approximately 17,000 people experience homelessness in New Mexico. Currently, state resources and programs are focused on an emergency-based shelter system to temporary house people. With a Housing First approach, the primary focus is on helping homeless individuals and families quickly access and sustain permanent housing. In addition to housing, supportive services are offered according to the individual or family’s needs and can include mental health counseling, financial management skills training, job training, childcare, job search assistance, parenting skills classes or substance abuse treatment.
The Taskforce will include state agencies, community organizations, and service providers, and will report to the Interim Welfare Reform Oversight Committee by November 1st.