Though the issue of homelessness does indeed need to be addressed (“Santa Fe must do better by homeless,” My View, Oct. 13), the idea of throwing open the doors of dorms on the former Santa Fe University of Art and Design campus in midtown is misguided at best.
The first thing that would happen is a crush of homeless people coming here from all over to take advantage of the open spaces. Sad to say, but as kind and humane as this may appear, there are downsides, including and mainly for the homeless — because whenever you find a homeless camp, there is going to be crime, often directed at one another.
It is nice to say, “Just throw open the doors for the homeless,” but you have no idea what comes along with it. What is needed is a thoughtful, complex approach, relying on experts with experience in the field.
Why experts? Because there are many issues. Almost all people who are homeless have medical issues, both physical and mental/behavioral, including substance abuse (often they are self-medicating for mental health issues). Then you have to consider the impact for the fire department, especially ambulance services. Then the police. As noted, crime does follow. It follows any group of people, especially anonymous groups.
Then there is the cost. The cost to taxpayers would be in the millions of dollars. People would have to be hired to monitor the premises, provide case-work services and feed people.
Opening the doors with a big welcome sign is OK, but you have to plan for it and pay for it, and we already are doing a poor job.
As for the panhandlers (“Panhandling deluge? City says no,” Oct. 10), the stories I could tell! While working at St. Elizabeth Shelters and Supportive Housing many years ago, there was a young man who would find a busy corner, hold up his sign saying, “Will work for food,” and generally make $90 to $100 per day. Rarely did anyone offer food or work, just money.
Logically, the city should have a dedicated department and facility. There would be health and psychological care where needed, detox from substances, short-term housing as well as longer-term housing. There would be case management, to cover housing and jobs, and maybe job training as well as child care, if needed. It can be done, and has been done, but at a major cost.
The last thing the city of Santa Fe should do is just throw open the doors, because the city will be overwhelmed in no time, and the losers will not be us; the losers will be the homeless, who arrive and find that what they heard through the grapevine was not true, and Santa Fe is not the sanctuary they thought.
Let’s address the homeless issue we have now. There are a number of people right here who have been working for decades on the problem. Let’s begin a dialogue and then some planning.
Ted Carlin worked at St. Elizabeth Shelter, the county-run detox center and is a former county volunteer firefighter and EMT. He lives in Santa Fe.