An open letter to Mayor Alan Webber, Councilors Renee Villarreal and Signe Lindell, and police Chief Andrew Padilla:
As a rich, Anglo resident living on Hyde Park Road, I may sound like a privileged voice speaking from a high tower segregated from the hustle and bustle of Cerrillos and Harrison roads, where the Interfaith Community Shelter at Pete’s Place has functioned for more than 10 years. But I also am associated with First Presbyterian Church, where some of the services (showers, meals and a clothing center) were provided on a weekly basis after Sunday worship. Holy Faith Episcopal Church provided similar services on other days. Then the city graciously provided about $1 million to renovate Pete’s Place, where the shelter now operates.
I and my wife, Mary Ann Lundy, have volunteered at the Interfaith Community Shelter. I was both a shower provider, nighttime bedding services provider, and Mary Ann served in the kitchen. Needless to say, the pandemic prevented us (me 91, Mary Ann 87) from continuing as volunteers.
My purpose in addressing community leaders, two of whom I voted for and Villarreal, whom I worked with in Pojoaque on community issues, is to remind you of your overall responsibilities to the city community. Residents on Harrison Road should have a voice for you to hear. But the homeless, who are practically voiceless, also must be your concern. I do not infer that you disregard the homeless. In fact, each of your statements in the newspaper (“Neighbors of Santa Fe shelter demand more policing,” Oct. 6) demonstrate a concern for their needs.
My concern, however, is the oft-repeated solution, which is not a viable plan, to “move it” and build or provide a larger space somewhere else. Santa Fe is a prominent NIMBY city. Witness past efforts to have a senior living complex near Museum Hill or the affordable housing complex not far from Harrison Road, extending Richards Avenue, da da da da. The above-mentioned article in The New Mexican quotes a neighbor saying this NIMBY problem should not stop moving proposals, but his own neighborhood illustrates they are party to NIMBY-ism. So solutions are floated about a shelter in the vicinity of the airport, an utterly preposterous location for serving homeless in the city.
Rather, city leaders should propose viable solutions. The increased lighting on Harrison Street is a meaningful first step. Increased and prompt police presence and response is another. Chief Padilla, as a north-side resident, I have observed almost daily a police car sitting in the median at Paseo de Peralta and Guadalupe Street, watching for, I presume, speeding or red-light running. On lower Gonzales Road, there is frequently a police car stationed to catch or moderate speeding. Sure, your department has pressing emergencies, but these idle, lurking police cars might also observe the shelter area as well. Mayor Webber, your suggestion that augmented social services are needed, rather than police crackdowns, is commendable. Your efforts during the pandemic to use the midtown campus for homeless housing and plans to purchase a motel for the same purpose also are commendable.
Finally, the article refers to the county jail’s refusal to accept more inmates as aggravating the homeless problem. Shelter Director Joe Jordan-Berenis states there are only 10 or 15 people — all banned from the shelter — causing the problems about which the neighborhood is complaining. Blaming or moving the shelter, which provides enormous one-stop services to the Santa Fe homeless in a central location, is not a solution. I remind you as city leaders of your obligation to serve all citizens of our city.