New Mexico group unveils estimated $20M homelessness project

Markets Associated Press

A local architect and a pair of organizations that serve Santa Fe's homeless population have been working together for nearly two years to develop a long-term solution to homelessness that extends far beyond a bed and a meal.

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The group's estimated $20 million proposal called One Door just lacks two primary ingredients: funding and a site, The Santa Fe New Mexican reported earlier this week.

The group envisions a project that combines several types of temporary housing on a 10- to 15-acre campus with medical and mental health care, substance abuse treatment, job training, case management and a host of other services to help people in the community overcome the cause of their housing crisis.

The proposed 400-bed facility is modeled after a 1,500-bed facility in San Antonio, Texas, called Haven for Hope.

Haven for Hope has seen success not just in getting people off the streets, but in transforming people's lives so they can live independently in permanent homes, said the group's lead architect, Suby Bowden.

Haven for Hope spokeswoman Laura Calderon estimates the 7-year-old project has led to more than $90 million in savings and has reduced homelessness in downtown San Antonio by 80 percent.

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The group faces concerns about the Haven for Hope-based project's price tag, however, with some advocates saying that level of public funding could better serve people struggling with homelessness if it were spent on affordable homes.

Joseph Jordan-Berenis, director of the Interfaith Community Shelter at Pete's Place, is one of those advocates.

He said the services provided at a campus such as Haven for Hope or the proposed One Door are important, "but if you don't have real housing at the end of it, you're going to create a crisis," he said.

The group, which includes St. Elizabeth Shelter and Health Care for the Homeless, hopes the project will draw city, county and state funding.

If the One Door project moves forward, Health Care for the Homeless would be based there, and St. Elizabeth Shelter would relocate its overnight men's shelter to the site, along with its Casa Cerrillos housing program for people with severe mental illness and disabilities, St. Elizabeth Executive Director Deborah Tang said.

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Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, http://www.sfnewmexican.com