Drug abuse and safety concerns near the Interfaith Community Shelter at Pete’s Place dominated a community discussion held by the city Tuesday evening.

Much of the discussion surrounded deteriorating conditions around the shelter, located at the corner of Cerrillos and Harrison roads.

Residents and business owners painted a picture that included drug dealing, aggressive behavior and sexual assault, particularly along Harrison Road.

Those problems led some to call for the shelter’s relocation.

Santa Fe resident Susan Guevara said the situation has only spiraled in the 14 years she has lived near the facility.

”The situation has gone from ‘Aw, gee, this is a drag’ to absolutely frightening,” Guevara said. “I told the City Council and Mayor [Alan] Webber that we have already had assaults there; we are going to see batteries soon. That is one of the biggest reasons why this shelter needs to be in a more appropriate area.”

George Lyon, announced as the shelter’s new executive director in May, said that regardless of where the facility is located, the underlying problem will persist.

”We will resolve the situation with your help,” Lyon said. “It’s not just Pete’s Place. If you move Pete’s, you’re just moving it to another area. The problem is a disease that is hurting our community, and without concerted effort, it is not going to change.”

Police Chief Andrew Padilla said the community needs to unite to find a solution to the issues.

”The location it is in, it is there,” Padilla said. “Until we come together as a city, a county and a state and identify a better location, unfortunately, we have to deal with this situation as a community and as a group.”

The city approved a new four-year lease with the shelter in October. The meeting, held virtually via Zoom, was a requirement of the city’s agreement with Pete’s Place.

Capt. Matthew Champlin said the police department typically receives complaints about loitering, which affects the quality of life for business owners and residents in the area.

The city does not have an ordinance against loitering.

There were 118 dispatched calls for service on Harrison Road from June 1 to July 13, according to the police department.

During that same time, Champlin said the department completed 140 drive-bys in the area, also known as proactive close patrols.

”That is the highest amount of close patrols I have seen in that time period in one area,” Champlin said.

Community Health and Safety Director Kyra Ochoa outlined actions taken by the city to mitigate safety concerns, including adding $90,000 to an Allied Security contract for Harrison Street during the past fiscal year.

City officials also detailed a budding plan to increase sidewalk access along Harrison Road, often impeded by tents, according to residents.

Improvements to spotty street lighting along the road to help address safety issues in the corridor also were proposed.

Mark Edwards, owner of Z Pets Hotel and Spa on Harrison Road, said he felt it currently was more dangerous during the day than at night and didn’t believe infrastructure improvements would help with safety.

“I have a 13-year-old volunteer who lives in the Homewise project who doesn’t feel safe enough to walk to my business to volunteer there,” Edwards said. “She is not even allowed to come out of my business until her mother is in the parking lot.”

Santa Fe resident Miguel Gabaldon said if the city did widen the sidewalk, it would result in more sidewalk camping and need for enforcement.

City Councilor Renee Villarreal, who spearheaded the sidewalk-widening effort with Councilor Signe Lindell, said that while she didn’t believe it was a fix for issues swirling around Harrison Road, it helped meet a constituent’s request.

”I don’t want to disregard the folks who do want that,” Villarreal said.

Villarreal said while she is concerned about homelessness, she receives more complaints about drug dealers, drug use and gangs.

“The complaints we get are not complaints against the homeless populations,” she said. “It’s really about the people who prey on these folks.”

Champlin said arresting away a drug problem was not a solution, adding better alternative was providing support services.

Mayor Alan Webber agreed.

“You can’t arrest someone for being homeless,” Webber said. “That is not a crime in our city. It is a crime to be a drug dealer, to threaten someone with violence, to be a gang member throwing rocks and intimidating people and blocking them into their cars.”

(20) comments

Dan Frazier

It would be better if the homeless were not all concentrated in one place. Concentrating in one place spreads diseases, lice, and bad habits. It also gives drug dealers a handy place to sell. And of course, the neighbors don't like it. Why not give the homeless people what they really need most -- housing. This could be in a hotel, apartment, or even an actual house. Scatter the housing around town so no one area is unfairly burdened. Bring the services these clients need to where they live, or transport them at specific times for their needed services, then bring them back to where they live.

If none of this sounds feasible, then what about converting the community college into a homeless encampment of sorts? It is a large central location where homeless people could be concentrated away from businesses and residences. There are also buildings that could be used to provide various services.

Mark Edwards

Every day we are forced to witness the use of drugs and alcohol and the ridiculous behavior that ensues on Harrison Road from our location - screaming, nudity, assaults, overdoses, urination, defecation and intimidation. It doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to deduce that there is an obvious connection between the recent deaths, the transient community and Pete's Place. This is an incredibly unsafe and unhealthy atmosphere and the city should not allow it to exist.

More importantly, maybe there is a benefit of Pete's guests to be on Harrison Road and the surrounding areas because they were rejected by Pete's by not meeting their requirements to be on the property.

Since Pete's building doesn't meet health and safety requirements to provide a safe environment for Pete's guests, they're probably safer outside that building. There is inadequate ingress and egress for emergency services and for evacuations. Because the property doesn't have the ability to conform to the health and safety requirements, it should not be allowed to operate for any human services.

Because of the work that Pete's is trying to do for the homeless in our community, it is important to understand that Pete's ability to be beneficial to the homeless is decidedly restricted at this location and would be better suited in a more compatible environment. THAT'S why there is a lawsuit currently in place against The Interfaith Community Shelter to have them relocate to a safer environment.

Paul LeSage

I am confused how this can go on when all I see in store fronts is "Help Wanted" signs. There seems to be employment available for those who seek it.

Khal Spencer

Maybe all those social justice warriors can march on Pete's Place with their chains and grappling hooks and tear it down and then build something better?

Seriously, if there is a better place for a heavily used shelter, we should find it and make sure it is patrolled to ensure it is a resource rather than a burden.

Marsden DeLapp

"absolutely frightening" is putting it mildly. Having multiple people threatening to kill you is absolutely terrifying. Especially considering that one of those threats came from a member of the Syndicato De Nuevo Mexico (SNM) gang who has a reputation for actually killing people.

MP Paul

The failure of homeless programming in Santa Fe is tragic and avoidable. Webber’s administration has pursued homeless programming at all costs and created an environment of anything goes in Santa Fe if you are traveling in the homeless community. I know because I live 50 feet from St. Elizabeth’s Shelter on Alarid St.

St E’s committed to running a residential only program and does not have the facilities, staff, or location to provide emergency shelter services. Apparently St. E’s strategy, supported by Webber, is to lie to our community about their services and throw food and clothing out onto the sidewalk, from behind locked doors, to people not participating in their residential program and draw transients into the railyard.

Directly outside St. E’s front door there is unmanaged: violent and aggressive behavior, knives pulled, distribution of narcotics, and no respect for our community with a profusion of trash, dirty clothes, and half eaten food thrown down throughout the railyard.

Railyard neighbors experienced transients, who were supported with food bags from St. E’s, threatening myself and neighbors with clubs, stealing, entering our homes, smashing out windows, assaulting people in the railyard park and underground pass, and living on neighbors’ residential property. One neighbor was recently told she needed a restraining order to remove homeless camped on her property. When I called the police after being threatened by a homeless man with a club the arriving police officer didn’t pursue the transient and indicated that I was somehow responsible for the assault. The police are not responding to issues with transients, and everyone in Santa Fe knows it.

Recently the Director of St. Elizabeth told me he speaks daily to our Mayor. It seems to me that Mayor Webber needs to broaden his dialogue and include others in our community who are so negatively impacted by his programming and stop with the public pr. I’m pretty certain the meeting last night won’t result in any meaningful change for the people along Harrison Road, just like what we’ve experienced in the railyard.

Marty Carvlin

The shelter needs to be moved to Las Campanas, El Dorado or maybe Mayor Webber's neighborhood so all the well-meaning interfaith community members there can share their wealth and benevolence with the clients. Unfortunately, the burden falls on the residents and business people there on Cerrillos Rd. I lived in the neighborhood behind Jackalope and experienced the extremely stressful impact, the biohazards, and the wonderful neighborhood watch group that bravely and tenaciously protect their homes and businesses. Ten years is a long enough sentence for them. The shelter could easily be moved elsewhere so that residents might have a chance to recuperate their quality of life and perhaps property values.

Paul White

The Volvo dealership which is empty is much larger, further from residential areas and could provide better services. A friend suggested this, and I sent it out as a chat in the meeting. I wonder if any of the counselors or mayor noticed it?

Khal Spencer

Good point. I wonder who owns the Volvo dealership land and buildings.

Mark Ortiz

First of all, I empathize with those that are in the position that need the shelter and the residents of that area. I also, agree, move the location, you move the problems. I don't have a solution. I will say this, if this place were located on upper Canyon Road or lower Gonzales Road, I wonder how focused Webber and Lindell would be on working on homelessness in Santa Fe. We all know Webber is beholden to his donor/neighbors, and Sig hates people who don't bathe.

Joseph Hempfling

having volunteered at Petes, i can say the people served there as "guests" are treated with dignity and respect and are very much in need of the services including a periodic hot shower, a meal and a place to crash. And most of them are there because of the "sickness" of a society, our society that has turned it's back on it's children in need and until we do something about that like get money our of politics, the situation will continue and only moved out of sight to another's backyard. AND SO IT IS. So my suggestion for what it is worth; is to offer them a hand-up rather than a hand out.

Margaret Eyler

Houston (with a Democrat mayor) reduced its homelessness by 55% over the course of a YEAR by enforcing drug possession laws, launching a city-wide anti-panhandling campaign, making it illegal to camp AND implementing permanent housing solutions for affected folks. Everyone--it CAN be done, but frankly it starts with enforcing the laws that the rest of us abide by. It is NOT compassionate to let these people live this way!!!!

Mike Johnson

Once again, Webber shows he is soft-on-crime and could care less about public safety. I drove by this place not long ago, what a mess and eye-sore it all is, it must be closed.

Richard Reinders

Is Petes Place not required to rehab these people and try to move them forward, do they provide progress reports on the residence. If there is not a plan to help other than house and feed them that is the problem. What is the objective? How many councilors work there?

Lupe Molina

So few in this town do anything to help and now you're going to beat up Pete's Place for not being a panacea?

Richard Reinders

I am asking questions not beating up on anyone. I am not privy to their mission statement.

Pam Walker

Five days a week I drive down Harrison on my way to work. It is plain heart breaking to say the least. Not only Harrison but pretty much the whole city has turned into a major dump with abandoned grocery carts filled with God only knows what are all over the place. You see people crashed out on the curbs, and people panhandling on about every intersection. These folks don't even hide their drug abuse any more and shoot up in plain site. Seems to me that a whole lot of this money you are allocating for the climate change and all of the other programs should be spent figuring out what to do with these lost folks. After all they are human beings just like you and me.

Deelores Flausy

They sit on the curb shooting up and the article fails to mention that the shelter closes its gates so that law enforcement cannot enter the premises after a certain hour. There are so many people there with warrants. Also this shelter is fully responsible for all the dirty needles laying around town. Before they started their needle exchange Walgreens and CVS would not sell insulin needles unless you had a valid prescription for insulin. Why is the city funding this place? Most of these people belong in the Las Vegas mental hospital or prison. If we did what they do in the Netherlands and open up a proper shooting gallery with government provided dope that would put a stop to this because we all know how actively these guests seek out other services provided by the government.

Kim Griego-Kiel

The homeless problem in Santa Fe is nothing compared to many places in this country. I was recently visiting my parents in Oregon and was shocked to see what was happening there! Yes it is still a big problem here as it is growing and much more visible. As is the drug problem. Sometimes they are hand in hand, but not always. Your suggestion that they all be in a mental institution is heartless as sometimes that is not the issue and sometimes it is. The problem is lack of funding for services. So those who oppose government funds for social services, well here is the result of the last four years for sure. And yes, I know this problem has been going on for far longer, but the more you cut services the more you see homelessness as a problem and not as a compassionate issue we must all find a solution for.

Johnny Duran

This is yet another joke. Living on this street is horrible. All the zombies the shelter enables is atrocious. Once again they find a way to just kick the can down the road. The shelter is disgusting, it smells of feces and urine. Druggies shoot up in broad daylight with no consequences. They impede traffic and threaten the residents daily. Many good neighbors have been forced to move to find safety and sanity. Our politicians could care less as this has been an ongoing problem for over a decade.

Welcome to the discussion.

Thank you for joining the conversation on Santafenewmexican.com. Please familiarize yourself with the community guidelines. Avoid personal attacks: Lively, vigorous conversation is welcomed and encouraged, insults, name-calling and other personal attacks are not. No commercial peddling: Promotions of commercial goods and services are inappropriate to the purposes of this forum and can be removed. Respect copyrights: Post citations to sources appropriate to support your arguments, but refrain from posting entire copyrighted pieces. Be yourself: Accounts suspected of using fake identities can be removed from the forum.