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 dchacon@sfnewmexican.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danieljchacon.

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(10) comments

Pierce Knolls

"...so that our most vulnerable members of our community will have...the resources to find a pathway to employment and a way out of homelessness" - Patti Bushee

Are the resources to help the homeless find a pathway to employment actually being provided? Can anyone provide any documentation on the shelter's success rate in actually getting these homeless folks employment? While I applaud the concept of transitioning these folks into the ranks of the employed, I seriously question the shelter's ability to get that accomplished. I drive by this shelter twice a day, and it seems to me that the same group of able-bodied individuals is always unproductively standing around out front, or in the street next to the shelter.

Dominic Montoya

“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" - Patti Bushee

I'm sure that Councilor Bushee is all for helping the homeless. Especially because the city agreed that the shelter should be operated in a "commercial space that is away from the plaza and railyard". Basically all that is left at that point is the southside of Santa Fe which Bushee does not represent. Funny how this city's leadership is always concerned with the impact charitable activities will have on the downtown area, but turn a blind eye to the impact these activities are having on the southside of town. Guess they don't want the homeless to be around the tourist areas, so the southside residents must deal with panhandling everytime they stop by a grocery or convenience store, and watch the homeless population roam our neighborhoods throughout the week. Pathetic representation from our southside city councilors.

Pierce Knolls

It must be nice for city councilors to be able to help the homeless at the expense of neighborhoods in which the councilors don't live.

Dominic Montoya

I agree Pierce. I am fed up with this city's leadership when it comes to their complete ignorance towards the southside of Santa Fe. I blame my city council representatives the most. Ron Trujillo and Bill Dimas should have fought to move the shelter elsewhere or fought to provide the necessary resources to ensure the neighborhoods surrounding the shelter are clean and safe. I know that this article focused on Councilor Rivera's comments since the shelter actually is in his district, but right across Cerrillos Rd from the shelter is district 4, and we are impacted as well. Poor representation from our district's leaders in these situations.

Cate Moses

Great news. Thanks, City Council, for doing the right thing.

Mary Bonney

Great news!

Amber Espinosa-Trujillo

I am hopeful that the light shed on the homeless issues will bring more monetary support, volunteerism and less fear of our friends and neighbors that happen to be homeless.

It would be great to have a 24 hour/year round shelter, however that takes funding as 75%+ of the staffing is performed currently through volunteers from the community and faith groups. Without their commitment the winter shelter would not exist as they provide the food, the people to serve it and the volunteers to oversee the shelter until the paid night staff arrive!

Donald Sure

Great news. I do have one question though. Why are homeless people kicked out of the shelter every morning, often in sub-freezing temperatures? They are not allowed to return until later in the afternoon. It is often bitter cold. What are they supposed to do?

Pierce Knolls

"What are they supposed to do?" - Maybe look for jobs?

Staff
Daniel Chacon

Mr. Sure,

I asked Guy Gronquist, chairman of the shelter's board of directors, why the shelter didn't stay open longer or even all day. The reason, he said, is primarily because of lack of funding. "We do the very best with the resources that we have," he told me Tuesday.

Daniel

Welcome to the discussion.

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