Police presence, management to increase around Desert Hope

The Desert Hope apartment complex on Thursday, June 16, 2022. The complex, owned by Mesilla Valley Public Housing Authority, houses 40 people who were previously experiencing homelessness.

LAS CRUCES – The city is planning to increase police presence and a new property manager wants to better enforce rules and policies at the Desert Hope Apartments after complaints about the condition of the property and the effect it’s had on the surrounding neighborhood.

Desert Hope, a 40-unit permanent supportive housing development for formerly unhoused residents, opened in August 2021 at 1310 Pecos St. As a permanent supportive housing complex, Desert Hope not only provides affordable, often subsidized rents for tenants but also on-site services to assist them with employment, food insecurity and healthcare needs.

Services are provided by the nonprofit Mesilla Valley Community of Hope, which has staff working at the complex to coordinate services.

The complex is owned by the Mesilla Valley Public Housing Authority. The MVPHA is tasked with managing the property, selecting tenants, processing leases and collecting rent.

Property management at Desert Hope has been described as infrequent to nonexistent as of late, according to some tenants and staff there, leading to unsanctioned visitors, unchecked disruptive behavior, litter, drug use and broken gates, bike pump and grill.

Community member Yvonne Lopez, right, speaks about her experience near Desert Hope during a public meeting about Desert Hope on Wednesday, June 15, 2022.

People who live or operate businesses near the complex have also spoken out in recent weeks, saying the neighborhood has become less safe since the complex opened. They’ve described aggressive panhandlers, discarded needles, human waste and unhoused people trespassing on properties.

New property manager

The MVPHA has denied claims it has poorly managed the property. Though the public housing authority admitted to the Sun-News on June 17 that following the resignation of a staff member assigned to Desert Hope, the agency did not have a permanent staff member there. MVPHA told the newspaper it was working to contract management out to a third party.

A mounted LCPD security camera tower surveils the Desert Hope Apartments on Wednesday, July 6, 2022.

The housing authority has since hired JL Gray Company to serve as Desert Hope’s property manager, MVPHA Executive Director Juan Olvera stated.

“With the help of Mesilla Valley Public Housing Authority, we have already cleaned up the property considerably and will continue to keep it clean and sanitary,” JL Gray Director of Development Jeff Curry said in a statement Wednesday. “With the help of Community of Hope and other agencies, we will be spending considerable time educating and training the residents on appropriate use of the property. We are enforcing the lease and property rules.”

Curry said staff on site are “carefully monitoring the situation.”

District 3 City Councilor Becki Graham, who represents the district in which Desert Hope sits, issued a public statement on the situation last week which included steps the city and the organizations involved in the complex are taking to address the issues. 

The hiring of a property manager, according to Graham’s statement, will improve “oversight of residents” and allow for better communication with security at the apartments. JL Gray Company’s contract began July 1, Graham stated.

The Desert Hope apartment complex on Thursday, June 16, 2022. The complex, owned by Mesilla Valley Public Housing Authority, houses 40 people who were previously experiencing homelessness.

Police upping enforcement

Graham attended a public meeting June 15 during which apartment complex neighbors railed against the conditions they say emerged as a result of the complex.

“As I have continued to look into this situation, I’ve learned that the issues are not wholly tied to Desert Hope,” Graham said in her statement. “Many of the issues brought up are associated not with those living at the complex, but to people frequenting the surrounding area.”

District 3 Las Cruces City Councilor Becki Graham speaks to constituents about the Desert Hope permanent supportive housing complex at a public meeting on Wednesday, June 15, 2022.

The Las Cruces Police Department has reportedly increased the number of community outreach officers in the area, Graham stated. The officers “work with residents, business owners, and vulnerable populations to address the types of problems the neighborhood is experiencing, such as trespassing, littering, and vandalism.”

LCPD will also work with residents and business owners to create a neighborhood watch group, has installed a mounted security camera near the apartments and has discussed possibly adding a police substation to the area.


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