Over 40 community organizations gathered in the Blacksmith Building at the Albuquerque Rail Yards on Saturday, June 25, for the city’s Community Expo and Celebration prior to Mayor Tim Keller’s State of the City address. These organizational partners showcased the work they’ve done, the opportunities they afford and the roles they play in the greater Albuquerque community — as well as their opinions on the current state of the city.

Joey Wilson, warehouse coordinator for the Albuquerque Public Schools Title I McKinney-Vento Homeless Program, which supports unsheltered youth and their families to help them attend school and get an education, expressed concern with the city’s handling of the unhoused population, specifically the youth.

“I think there’s been a lot of improvement, but I think there’s still a long way to go,” Wilson said. “When it comes to the unaccompanied youth, we haven’t even tapped the surface.”

Still though, she said Keller has shown improvement and hasn’t done terribly, especially when compared to previous mayors.

“At least he's addressing it and is trying to bring awareness and stuff. But it takes the community's involvement as well, so he can't do it by himself,” Wilson said.

Though McKinney-Vento can be supported through donations, Wilson also encourages the broader Albuquerque community to contribute through education and awareness, saying that one of the strongest tools is awareness — having people willing to advocate for students so they know that there’s help out there, whether they’re in K-12 or university.

Kyle Tapaha, urban Indigenous organizer with the nonprofit Americans for Indian Opportunity, shared the work that his organization has been doing to help the Indigenous communities in Albuquerque. These efforts include work on a Native American resource center, year-long sponsorships of free internet for struggling Native American families through Comcast and a 988 crisis number, which will begin receiving calls starting July 16.

As co-chair of the Commission on American Indian & Alaska Native Affairs, Tapaha believes that Keller has shown himself to be someone who listens to feedback on the city's modern and historic treatment of Indigenous groups.

“We're always working with the mayor. He's doing a good job as far as listening to the urban Indigenous community,” Tapaha said.

A primary focus for Tapaha is youth education: encouraging Native American students at all levels to engage with Indigenous clubs and leadership opportunities as well as civic engagement groups such as the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council.

Sofia Bajana, business advisor with the New Mexico Minority Business Development Agency, expressed similar sentiments regarding the city of Albuquerque supporting their agency’s efforts to close equity gaps in the small business community.

“We are federally funded, but we are operated by the city of Albuquerque economic development department … we always work together as a team; they don’t leave us apart,” Bajana said.

As part of her job in helping minority businesses with growth and access to contracts, capital and networking, Bajana is excited for the opportunities being created by the mayor’s office and the city of Albuquerque with the Rail Yards.

“They can use this place as an opportunity to expose their products, their services (and) have connections between them too … I think it will be great,” Bajana said.

For a complete list of the organizational partners from the Community Expo, visit the city of Albuquerque’s website.

Spenser Willden is the culture editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at culture@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @spenserwillden