A decade-old homeless shelter in Santa Fe is facing increased challenges amid the pandemic, with demand for its services staying steady while it offers fewer beds to adhere to COVID-19 precautions.

Interfaith Community Shelter at Pete’s Place has a 120-bed capacity at its Cerrillos Road building but can only fill 36 beds to comply with social distancing.

To keep with its mission of bringing the homeless out of the cold, Interfaith has put up roughly 30 people at the GreenTree Inn. And earlier this year, it referred 24 people with COVID-19 symptoms to the emergency shelter the city opened at the midtown campus, where they were quarantined and tested.

But the number of homeless people seeking shelter will grow as the weather gets colder, so there’s a need to find more housing for those who could have obtained bed space at Interfaith before the pandemic, said Joseph Jordan-Berenis, the shelter’s director.

“We don’t want them freezing to death,” he said.

In the midst of those challenges, Jordan-Berenis is seeking a four-year lease renewal at the city-owned building, where it offers less stringent screening to homeless people, such as letting those who are intoxicated return later rather than rejecting them.

“We are the safety net for the city and the county,” Jordan-Berenis said.

The city of Santa Fe delayed renewing the shelter’s lease Wednesday — the day it expired — saying the building needs a state fire and safety inspection.

The City Council voted to kick the proposed lease renewal to committees to review. The shelter will go to a monthly agreement until the lease is renewed.

“I’d hate for something to happen there without the inspections being done,” said City Councilor Christopher Rivera, who requested that the lease renewal be held off. “Something to let us know that the fire and sprinkler system is working well, and that the building is structurally sound.

Still, City Councilor JoAnne Vigil Coppler said letting the lease expire suggests a shelter for the city’s most underserved populations is a low priority.

“I think we need to do a better job,” Vigil Coppler said.

To provide more beds, Jordan-Berenis has been talking with officials at St. Elizabeth Shelter about taking overflow and with youth shelter officials about sending them younger street people who show up at the Interfaith shelter, he said.

He also would like to add 10 more people to the GreenTree Inn. Because it’s a hotel, he ensures that those he sends there are sober and well behaved, he said.

Over the years, some neighbors have complained about illegal drug activities, theft and junk-filled shopping carts that they’ve linked to the Interfaith shelter.

Jordan-Berenis said he shares the neighbors’ concerns.

In the past year, about a dozen individuals have caused trouble, and they are no longer allowed on the property, he said.

“I empathize [with neighbors] because we call police to have some people moved with some regularity,” Jordan-Berenis said. “The street, unfortunately, is not our responsibility.”

Sometimes neighbors incorrectly blame the shelter for thefts in the area, Jordan-Berenis said. He recalled a business owner pinning a burglary on shelter occupants, when the thieves used a large truck to haul away the stolen goods, indicating it was a more professional job.

The neighbors don’t see the hundreds who receive assistance, such as treatment for mental illness or get housing through Veterans Affairs, he said.

Interfaith took in more than 1,300 people last year, a number that will shrink this year because of coronavirus restrictions.

Still, the shelter remains an important hub, Jordan-Berenis said.

Mayor Alan Webber said the shelter’s pending lease renewal will be a way to discuss how caring for the city’s homeless intersects with the pandemic and efforts at community policing.

“I think the conversation stands to be productive rather than a delay or an imposition,” Webber said. “There’s enormous support in the role that Pete’s Place plays in this continuum of care, and the expertise of the people who work there, and the extraordinary commitment of its volunteers.”

(32) comments

Marsden DeLapp

This shelter needs to move. This location is obviously way too small to accommodate the needs of the homeless.

Michael Nochtzin

It is a hard call for sure. Moving it to a larger and better-suited area would be the best option. If that is not possible, there should be a community police outreach headquarters if it is to stay.

Molly Mix

Just think of what New Mexico could accomplish if reallocated green energy dollars to permanent housing/therapy/counseling services to the massive number of homeless here...

Michael Nochtzin

Good thinking Molly Mix.

Daniel Werwath

This is beyond wild. The city has consistently failed to invest enough resources to provide basic affordable housing supports including remotely enough affordable rentals that provide permanent housing for homeless, and now flippantly imperils this resource of last resort?

Prior to the pandemic we were losing about 500 low income families a year to homelessness or to moving out of the community completely. We haven't even gotten to the wave of evictions and foreclosure that will come from the pandemic. We really have become the City Indifferent.

Donald Apodaca

Great points Daniel. Prepare for housing and food costs to rise even more in 2020. Addiction and mental health issues will fuel New Mexico's economic downward spiral. Miss being able to buy a copy of the Santa Fe New Mexican from folks selling them from the mediums of busy intersections. They have been replaced by the panhandler.

Frederick Jones

Move it!! The residents are sick of this experiment!! Move it!

Michael Nochtzin

The problem is, is that with its "unstrict" policies surrounding "Pete's Guests" has become open territory for drug pushers. Even straight people who may land up needing the place are at risk because the drug culture is so openly supported there. It is a very dangerous place.

Donald Apodaca

Spot on observation Michael Nochzin. Addicts have to become dealers to support their habit. Have spoken to several addicts that have to sell heroin just to support their addiction. Some, folks I've met have $100-$300 a drug problem. The City of Santa Fe need to use the ruse of COVID-19 and start testing the blood of everyone needing any kind of Government assistance. A rapid coronavirus swab test may even be able to help detectives get DNA results for unsolved crimes. If we don't plan now Santa Fe will become as dangerous as Albuquerque.

Frederick Jones

The city has been sliding in this lease so that there is no opposition to it. The residents who deal with this nuisance have never been included in this conversation. It's always how great it is Sydney lindell said she received 60 emails from people who probably don't even live even remotely close to this thing. I've sent her 10 emails of two weeks worth neglect. They didn't even mention the death threat from The syndicato of de Nuevo Mexico. The building shouldn't even be a shelter of any sort. It's never been in compliance. If you're talking about pandemic restrictions drive in front of it and see how many people wear masks and you'll see that nobody does. 8 years of dealing with this nuisance and now this facility is a "hamsterdam" for people to publicly use drugs, pollute, buy drugs, sell drugs and as long as you're giving out those needles you get funding for it, so you're exploiting addiction. This facility needs to move. The city can do better!! I keep saying they have a campus where they have all of the tools to succeed. Quit following models and create a model that gets people on their feet. Where's Pete in all this? He disappeared!! The original mission statement has been lost for years it's all about making money at the expense of exploitation. Move it somewhere else it's time. Just like you shut down the Early Street Trainwreck!! The residents are sick of it! And I'm sure the volunteers just love it!! Ya basta!!

Mark Ortiz

Pete used to own a pet store and donated the building, period.

Frederick Jones

After it burned down and he got his insurance money.

Mark Ortiz

OMG, He did that? You should call the authorities or buy a cape.

Frederick Jones

And I think the city bought it as well.

Donald Apodaca

FACT: You can't stay at St. E's unless you are tested for COVID-19. My guess City has to do something quick. Folks flock to the City Different in the winter. The homeless addicts used to be able to keep their SSI, SSDI and or any other Gov. checks and binge all winter. That party is over! Mayor is letting the public know that a change is coming.

Michael Nochtzin

[thumbup] Pete's current location should only be used to serve food and as an outpatient service location. There should be "NO LOITERING" restrictions and that should be enforced by our very busy police.

Michael Nochtzin

It is true what you are saying Frederic Jones regarding the trafficking ring using that place as their street headquarters. I have photographs of guys shooting up other people. Very sad. It seems to me that the method of so called "help" is enabling further addiction and addiction culture. I believe drug addiction is an illness, and for a shelter or any other type of service center should create an enviornment of healing. Unfortunately, Pete's is enabling higher amounts of addiction and illicit drug sales right in the open. Drug users and sellers don't even try to hide what they are doing. They do it right in the open. I do see the police clearing the street of the drug abusers, however they just come back a few hrs. later. So I see a set of solutions needed.

1. Move it to another location that has more room

2. Establish a community police station as part of the service model

3. Ban drug and alcohol use (not the users). Just putting up signs with the phone number of the narcotics division can be a deterrent.

4. Hire security guards to post around the service area.

These are just a few management ideas not an end-all list.

Stopping the addiction problem may not be ended, but at least they will not feel free to openly shoot up on the street.

Donald Apodaca

Great points Michael Nochtzin. The coronavirus is the perfect reason for Government both City and State to make some bold moves. Addiction and mental illness is on the rise because of the stress and trauma of COVID-19. Failing to prepare for this reality is preparing to fail. Be mindful of how panhandlers have swarmed Santa Fe. It is as bad a Albuquerque. The solution starts by allowing St. E's to manage the hotel (Green Tree Inn) that needs to be purchased by the City of Santa Fe.

Michael Nochtzin

Sydney Lindell never should have held office in New Mexico. Coming from a farm in upstate NY, she has no clue regarding anyone other than the million-dollar homeowners living in the east hills. Yes, the citizens she caters to likely do care, but in reality, their concern is conceptual and not seated in the actual impacts of how a shelter has to operate in a community. So if they say, "We love Pete's for the homless" they don't even know what is going on there. What they are really saying is that we support providing services to the homeless and want that to continue. If they knew about the street situation over there they may have a different view. What it comes down to is that it is not the organization, Interfaith, but the situation regarding the use of Harrison as a trafficking hub.

Donald Apodaca

Santa Fe Police should reach out to the DEA and ask for their help with the growing illicit drug addiction in Santa Fe. Utilizing stingray technology drug dealers and their suppliers could be plucked off the streets in a few months. When dealers faces make the evening news because they were arrested in a ongoing Federal operation users may choose rehab over jail.

Mark Ortiz

Is this Covid thing new? Did anyone know the lease was expiring? Isn't there anyone on the Council with some background in firemanning and inspectoring who could have done figured out ahead of time this should have been done before the lease expired or was El Tigre y El mero mero Gabacho to busy estopping the loud muffler people?

Khal Spencer

The Mayor is right. Pete's takes care of a lot of people. Get this fixed.

Michael Nochtzin

Yes, they do help, but the drug culture and sex trafficking ring that is enabled from that location is bringing harm to many innocent victims that are just in a bad place in life.

Steve Spraitz

Move em out by the county jail area ,so tgey gave other resources than bothering the neighbors who own property ,never asked for this, and lighten up the begging,drug and alcohol abuse and harassment of the local business owners trying to make an honest living

I was homeless for a few years , before I moved here 33 years ago, and never begged for money

I got a real job

Donald Apodaca

The City of Santa Fe needs to buy The Green Tree Inn from it's new owner (s). STOP! paying them rent on all the rooms that are being used for housing folks that need help. Then, allow St. Elizabeth to manage the property. Edward Archuleta, current Director of St. E's has given decades of his life in Santa Fe helping those in need of these services. He is an angel among us. The few beds that are available at Pete's place can be used for the folks that refuse to follow the strict policies of St. E's.

David Brown

How much does Edward make a year?

Lupe Molina

What does it matter? Should he have to live in the poor house because he helps people? How often do you question the salaries of tobacco or oil execs?

Donald Apodaca

Edward started at St. E's as a volunteer. Now he is the director. The man is humble. Still rides the #2 bus to work. Don't know how much he makes, but am sure if you gave him a call he would let you know.

Frederick Jones

I think you need to ask how much Daniel Yohalem makes along with all the other trustees or board members of interfaith. There should be more than enough money with all these entities to actually build a facility that works. I still am dumbfounded as to what the fascination is with this location?? It's been "IMBY" for 8+ years every year is something new excuse not to move this thing.

Donald Apodaca

This issue needs to be investigated by KOB-4 and or the Santa Fe New Mexican. It may be a good idea for KOAT-7 and or the Albuquerque Journal North to get their shovels and start digging. COVID, addiction and mental health issues WILL worsen in 2021. PREPARE!

Michael Nochtzin

Much of this is a result of poor management, including the homeless shelter at the College of Santa Fe campus.

Michael Nochtzin

Fascination? What do you mean? It's a perfect location for local criminal gangs..drugs, sex trafficking, and has an ample supply of desperate people to vitimize.

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