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The ASUNM Senate comes to session on Wednesday, Sept. 13.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller discusses homelessness at ASUNM meeting

Mayor Keller presented future city plans and developments to the ASUNM Senate – offering information regarding Albuquerque’s unhoused population, mentioning shelter and treatment but  not addressing permanent housing solutions.

Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller appeared as a guest speaker at Associated Students at the University of New Mexico’s recent full Senate meeting on Oct. 11.

The Gateway Center aims to be Albuquerque’s answer to fill the need for a 24/7 shelter and treatment facility. The facility is currently under work to take over the old Gibson Medical Center located near the intersection of San Mateo and Gibson and is planned to open in stages.

“In the Gateway, this winter we’re expecting to open up a sobering center and a medical triage facility,” Keller said. Based on a feasibility report done for the sobering center, the initial staffing required would be 22 individuals, 15 being clinical staff.

While Keller said the Gateway center aims to be a solution to address the size of the unhoused population, the population across New Mexico continues to grow. A report released by New Mexico’s Legislative Finance Committee in May of this year states there has been a 48% increase in homelessness in 2023. Data from the report also suggested an increasing need for affordable housing.

Further plans for the center include space for temporary shelter and housing. “You may spend one night in the Gateway, you may spend a few hours in the Gateway, you may spend two weeks in the Gateway,” Keller said.

“What’s also coming is about 200 emergency housing beds and there is room for another couple hundred supportive housing units,” Keller said.

During Keller’s address, Senator Miriam Barba brought up concerns such as availability of affordable permanent housing.

Keller spoke about the Housing Forward program which would allow for rental of casitas – small one or two person dwellings – to be built in properly zoned areas. This program also includes plans to convert unused hotel and motel spaces into apartments. “Market-rate rent and other units will be subsidized so they are affordable to lower-income households,” the city’s website reads.

Barba asked if the casitas discussed could be a way to  provide the unhoused population with housing. “There was close to zero appetite for casitas for homeless people,” Keller said.

In the Summer of 2022, the city shut down Coronado Park – an encampment that was utilized by as many as 125 unhoused individuals.The city cited the reason for the park’s closure being violent crime while the residents of Coronado Park felt it was the shelters that were unsafe, according to Source New Mexico

The city is required to give notice and work collaboratively with residents of encampments before their closures, as stated on the City’s policy for responding to encampments on public property. The City’s website also asks residents to “report encampments within Albuquerque city limits.”

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Keller said he supports the Gateway Center as transitional housing. The Legislative Finance Committee also reported that emergency shelter capacity has doubled since 2016 while the number of affordable rental units has decreased by 50% since 2020.

The full Senate meets again on Wednesday, Oct. 25. Full Senate meetings are open to public comment.

Jaymes Boe is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at

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