Neighbors concerned about homeless using benches as shelters

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – An Albuquerque neighborhood has attracted some unwelcome guests.

Homeless people are making benches into their homes.

For almost six months, a woman has turned the bench in a neighborhood near Lead and Columbia into a shelter, making the neighborhood a little uncomfortable.

Brian and Scott Keith have lived in the neighborhood for almost 30 years.

“It’s a little intimidating you know? There’s this big setup and there’s someone hiding out in there and you don’t know who or what you’re going to confront,” said Brian Scott.

The benches were put in during the Lead and Coal road project that finished in 2012. The current use is not something the city anticipated becoming a problem.

“Absolute misuse of this equipment and absolute misuse of what its purpose and intentions are,” said Gilbert Montano, the Mayor’s Chief of Staff.

They’re now trying to make the woman move, but so far she’s refused. The city is not trying to force her out, but rather convince her to use resources such as Heading Home to get her back on her feet.

“What the mayor’s been working on for the last eight years now, the housing first model, to get them off the streets to get them into the help that they need. Teach them the dignity of work,” said Montano.

Some neighbors say the woman is harmless.

“She’s been there on a regular basis and she doesn’t really cause any problems. I feel bad for her. People don’t seem to bother her there,” Jonathan Jarden said.

Others are hoping for a solution before it gets worse.

“They see those homeless people hanging out and they head the other direction. They detour so they don’t have to confront the individuals,” Scott Keith said.

KRQE News 13 asked the Mayor’s Office if the homeless people do not leave when would they be kicked out, they said there is no timeline for that.

When asked if they would consider removing the benches and putting ones in that people could not sleep on, city officials said that is a possible option.

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