WE KNEW THERE WAS A BETTER WAY
Albuquerque Heading Home was launched in early 2011 and emerged out of the Community Response to Homelessness in Albuquerque, a plan developed in 2007 by the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness. As a community-wide initiative under the leadership of Mayor Richard J. Berry’s administration and local not-for-profit organizations, Albuquerque Heading Home now provides the coordinating and implementation structure for eliminating homelessness through community engagement across public and private sectors.
Albuquerque Heading Home’s primary purpose is to mobilize services and resources toward a common goal: to house and support Albuquerque’s most vulnerable people living on the streets and in emergency shelters.
The Community Response – our blueprint — holds as central 5 pillars critical for preventing and ending homelessness: Housing, Prevention, Services, Income and Community/Political Will. The Community Response created a more comprehensive and more local strategy than had until then been reflected by more categorical plans, such as those mandated by Federal programs. The New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness convened a small work group of representatives from homeless services, affordable housing, law enforcement, policy and the City to examine the evidence and the experiences of communities across the country, to synthesize input from previous initiatives and to draft a plan that would align multiple sectors in the community toward more effective responses to what had been perceived as an intractable problem.
Albuquerque is a city where homelessness is rare, short-lived and non-recurring.
What was lacking were the underlying community and political will and leadership to implement the plan.
The City of Albuquerque incorporated the broad strokes of the Community Response into its Consolidated and Workforce Housing Plans, submitted to the Department of Housing & Urban Development for use of Federal housing and community services dollars. Then, in 2009, a group of local non-profit and downtown business leaders began meeting with City staff to consider an action plan for implementation. This Core Vision Team met with the Mayor in August 2010 and determined the need for 1) better local cost-effectiveness data and tracking of program impact, and 2) coordination of a more effective initiative to address homelessness through measurable and accountable systems change.
The result is Albuquerque Heading Home.
In February 2011, the City launched the initiative through a vigorous community mobilization to the streets to identify its 75 most vulnerable homeless people. The framework for the effort was based on the national 100k Homes Campaign, which used the Albuquerque survey week as a national “boot camp” training event. Albuquerque Heading Home sent over 200 volunteers to the streets to survey homeless people “sleeping rough” and in shelters. The survey approached 700 individuals, 475 of whom agreed to a vulnerability assessment based on a national tool that determines highest risk of mortality on the streets.
That week was also one of the coldest in history, underlining the urgency of life and death on the streets. The community mobilization in process was able to respond immediately and generate emergency financial assistance to move people inside.
No one died on the streets that week in Albuquerque. And this community once again demonstrated its willingness to come forward and pitch in.
Currently, Albuquerque Heading Home is systematically placing those most vulnerable in housing and providing supportive services with case managers from across the service system. Led by Metropolitan Homelessness Project, a dedicated Care Team meets weekly to update the list of the city’s most at-risk homeless people, and to strategize about ways to eliminate systems barriers to expedite access to housing. A Core Vision Team also meets weekly in City Hall to monitor and plan for ongoing systems transformation.