Albuquerque neighborhood calls on Franciscan friars to be ‘better neighbors’


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – People in a southeast Albuquerque neighborhood are asking a group of Franciscan friars to be better neighbors.

The friars are trying to help the homeless, but several people told KRQE News 13 that their good deed has led to hazardous and even dangerous situations.

The seven Franciscan friars moved into the home, off San Mateo and Copper, in 2011.

“When we found out that it was the Franciscans purchasing it, we got very excited. We thought they were going to be great neighbors. It would be nice and quiet,” Diane Whaley said.

But Whaley, who’s lived in the neighborhood for 17 years, said lately, it’s been anything but ‘nice and quiet.’

The friars host a soup kitchen every Wednesday where they feed close to 250 homeless people. Throughout the week they also give out sack lunches.

“The entire neighborhood supports them running the soup kitchen and feeding the homeless,” Whaley said.

Neighbors said what they don’t support is the trash that’s left over. They said lately, the homeless have set up campsites in the parking lot overnight and even sometimes on their properties.

Saturday, they said a homeless man set a fire in front of their homes.

“It’s come to the point where we’re all very nervous,” Whaley said. “The gentleman that had been camping there was burning his trash and excrement and it was not a pretty sight. It’s becoming a bio-hazard and a severe concern that all of us are going to lose our homes to some random fire.”

Neighbors said they’ve called 311 and their city councilor, but nothing has changed. So, KRQE News 13 took their concerns straight to the mayor’s office. The mayor’s Chief of Staff, Gilbert Montaño, said it’s against city code for the friars to let people camp out in their parking lot overnight.

Montoño said the next step is a mediation program for both parties.

“We would like to help facilitate a dispute resolution between the neighbors and the friars,” Montoño said. “Sometimes it just takes a walk in someone else’s shoes to really see a different perspective.”

KRQE News 13 also spoke to one of the friars, Brother Maximilian. He said they don’t mean to be bad neighbors and acknowledged the issues. He said the brothers are also tired of what’s happening on their property.

Neighbors said that’s why they are willing to help.

“Maybe they need something that the neighborhood can provide for them. We’re willing to work with them but they need to communicate with us as well,” Whaley said.

The friars said they’re not giving permission to the homeless to camp out in their parking lot.

They’ve set up a meeting with the neighborhood association to brainstorm and come up with solutions.

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