The Interfaith Community Shelter for the homeless is no longer in limbo.
After operating on a month-to-month basis since its lease ran out in September, the shelter will get a new lease that will allow it to remain for at least the next two years in the city-owned Pete’s Pets building at 2801 Cerrillos Road.
The City Council, after an hour-plus debate Wednesday that drew dozens of shelter supporters and neighboring residents to City Hall, directed city staff to execute the new lease with Interfaith, which has been providing shelter and other services to the homeless at the Cerrillos Road location since 2010.
The shelter’s future at the site became uncertain when its lease came up for renewal. City Councilor Chris Rivera, whose district includes the shelter, introduced a resolution that called for looking at alternative locations. But after Interfaith and its supporters asked him to tone down the language, Rivera filed a substitute measure that asked city staff to convene meetings with service providers and report back in three months “on the overall operation of the one-stop shop for homeless services and winter shelter.”
His resolution still could have delayed approval of a new lease for the shelter. However, the council approved a version Wednesday that included a lease of “not less than two years.”
The council also asked for a series of stakeholder meetings that would include nearby residents and business owners to help form a memorandum of understanding with Interfaith that would address neighbors’ concerns, among other things.
“We’re grateful to council for directing staff to execute a lease, which we believe should have been done in a more timely fashion to provide stability to our operation,” Guy Gronquist, chairman of the shelter’s board of directors, said afterward.
“We welcome the opportunity to take part in stakeholder meetings because we believe that they will demonstrate the need for more, not less, city resources applied to this problem,” he said.
Although the issue drew a crowd to City Hall, including residents who have expressed concerns about how the facility is being run, no one from the public was able to speak on the issue, since it wasn’t a public hearing.
While the homeless shelter is located in a commercial zone, there are homes nearby, and neighbors say they’ve been dealing with a host of problems, including people drinking alcohol and using drugs near their doorsteps, sleeping outside and burning trash to stay warm.
Rivera, who has volunteered at the shelter with his church, first addressed the crowd by saying he had spent most of his adult life in an ambulance working for the fire department, where he would eventually serve as chief.
“Unlike many people who read about homeless people dying, I’ve seen it firsthand,” he said. “I’ve cared for them and taken them to the hospital and made sure that they were cared for during my time there.”
Rivera stressed that he supports the shelter. His resolution was intended for the city to do its “due diligence” when the lease came up for renewal, as well as to “convene as many people as possible” to determine whether the city could provide better services to the homeless.
“Maybe the way I came about it was completely wrong. Maybe it came across to people in different ways,” he said. “We can do better. That’s what this resolution was intended to do.”
City Councilor Patti Bushee said she looked forward to a “healthy and hearty discussion” with the public about how best to address homelessness in Santa Fe.
“I am also eternally grateful that the council had the wisdom to extend the lease to the Interfaith shelter so that our most vulnerable members of our community will have shelter, food and the resources to find a pathway to employment and a way out of homelessness,” she said.
Contact Daniel J. Chacón at 986-3089 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danieljchacon.