Councilor wants homeless, mental illness reform

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Responding to the Department of Justice findings that APD often resorts to unconstitutional use-of-force will be costly and time-consuming, one city councilor said Sunday there is another element that is just as important as reforming the police department.

Thousands of people call Albuquerque’s streets their home.

“It’s hard, it’s tiring and sometimes you get tired and you just want to give up,” Christina Sanchez said.

It’s a problem that hasn’t gone unnoticed for City Councilor Isaac Benton.

“I think I know where the shortfalls lie with our homeless efforts,” Benton said. “Funding for social services programs were cut four years ago and they’ve only been slightly increased since that time.”

Representing the city’s downtown area, he’s looking to pump more money into programs helping the homeless and mentally ill. So, why now?

“Well, certainly the (James) Boyd shooting has influenced my thinking,” Benton said.

Benton has four ideas: Work better with county corrections, like MDC, to improve substance abuse and mental health treatment; fund the city’s winter-only shelter to operate year round; increase the budget for Albuquerque Heading Home and do the same with the workforce housing trust fund to provide more affordable living.

But with a tricky budget and the recent DOJ findings that’ll more than likely cost the city big bucks, it won’t exactly be easy.

“That’s going to cost money too and I’m just trying to point out that we’ve got to have a balance between just this issue and our underlying social issues,” Benton said.

At the end of the day, though, Sanchez, who’s been without a home now for seven months, says the streets just suit some people best.

“There are people that want to change out here, there are people that can’t change because of a mental of physical disability and there are people that just don’t want to change,” Sanchez said.

Benton said he feels the system failed Boyd, the homeless camper shot in the foothills.

He’s also looking at programs that aren’t working so that some of the money can be shifted toward the ones that are.

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