House for homeless teens stirs neighborhood

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) - Plans to turn a home in northeast Albuquerque into a safe-haven for homeless teens, has stirred some controversy in the neighborhood. At some points, neighbors argued with one another while discussing the idea at a meeting, while the group behind the program tried to ease everyone’s concerns.

A home in the northeast heights was the focus of a neighborhood meeting Tuesday night. “If any of you are thinking this is going to look like a shelter, it is not a shelter model,” explained a Casa Q Board Member, to the crowd.

Bernalillo County owns the home near Winrock, and leased it to Casa Q, a non-profit that wants to give homeless teens who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, a safe place to stay.

It’s something Casa Q said is desperately needed in Albuquerque, where roughly 10,000 kids are homeless.

“We’ve had children who called us that are looking for a place to stay, we’ve had parents that don’t want to continue to house their gay child and want to know if we’ll take their kid,” explained Cristy Carbón-Gaul, Co-Chair of Casa Q.

“What our hope is for some of these kids who on a Tuesday go home and tell their parents they’re gay and their parents ask them to leave the house, that we can provide them a safety net before they have to live on the streets and have to figure out how to fend for themselves, so that that damage done is not irreparable.”

Board members said kids are often kicked to the curb when they come out of the closet. But having a place for homeless teens isn’t something everyone on the block was on board with.

Residents said the property has been notorious for problem tenants and brought up past issues of teens panhandling and showing up in their back yards.

Some people on the block believe troubled teens moving in, could just bring more trouble.

“Is there gonna be someone 24 hours that’s gonna be there constantly, a counselor, have these kids had a background (check)?”

Several residents expressed concern and asked questions about how to file complaints and whether there will be curfews.

The conversation created tension.

“I’m really disappointed by this conversation so far,” said Jacque Garcia. “I think we need to give this a better chance and have a better attitude about this program.”

One neighbor even opened up about her own experience.

“So, I was a queer kid that was homeless which I think maybe my neighbors don’t know, given their attitude right now,” said one woman. “I am now a homeowner with a steady job, you know, give these kids a chance.”

But after everyone had their say, the consensus was to welcome the new tenants, and give the program and the kids a chance to do some good.

“I fully support your program, I think it’s wonderful, I think we need it on every street,” said another resident.

Casa Q ensured there will be proper supervision and a social worker on-site at all times. The house should open within the next couple months.

Casa Q could house 10-12 teens at a time, ages 14-18, but they’ll start smaller, housing around four to six. The program will help kids go to school or work until they can find a permanent home.

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