Las Cruces solution for homelessness finds little traction elsewhere

Elizabeth Amber Guerrero was evicted from Coronado Park when it was closed in August. “It’s so much harder now,” she says. “And more dangerous. We can’t stay in the same place for more than a night. We have to keep moving.”

This story was originally published by Searchlight New Mexico.

On a sweltering day at the end of July, Mike Amos crouched by his tent, fiddling with a few car batteries powered by solar panels that sat on the bottom rack of a shopping cart. Amos used them to charge his phone, e-cigarettes and an electric skillet while living at Albuquerque’s Coronado Park, where he has stayed for much of the last six years. He had a couple of other carts filled with his belongings, along with a bicycle and a brindle Tennessee hound named Skittles. “Compared to the rest of society, I’m a dirtbag,” he said. “But for here, I live pretty good.”

On any given night, some 70 to 120 people stayed in the park that had become the face of Albuquerque’s homeless crisis, with a reputation as a haven for drug use, violence and poor sanitation. When Mayor Tim Keller announced his intentions to dismantle the encampment before the end of August, Amos knew his life was about to change. “The city is stuck, there’s nothing they can do. I get why they want to close this place,” he said. “But if they just kick us out, people will freak out when we go to their neighborhoods.”

Amos, who graduated from Albuquerque’s Sandia High School in 1979, didn’t know what he was going to do. “I fly by the seat of my pants,” he said. “I don’t have a Plan B.”

Neither, it seemed, did the city.

Mike Amos on a hot day in July while, a block away, the encampment at Coronado Park is temporarily closed for cleaning.

“We do not have the luxury of a perfect plan,” Mayor Keller acknowledged at a July 26 press conference to discuss Coronado’s imminent closure. Flanking him was Albuquerque Police acting commander Nick Wheeler, who reeled off statistics: five homicides and 16 stabbings had occurred at or near the park over the past two years; police were called there 651 times last year and 312 times in 2022, to date. Closing the park was imperative for public safety, Keller said. “So the first step is to figure out what we’re going to do in August. Then once we actually close the park, we’ll have the time to think through longer-term options.”


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