City helps homeless find housing

Posted at: 05/09/2013 5:56 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

The city of Albuquerque celebrated a milestone Thursday in its ongoing effort to find permanent housing for some of the city’s most vulnerable people – the chronically homeless. The Albuquerque Heading Home program moved its 200th homeless person off the streets, and into an apartment.

City leaders say the program costs money, but in the long run it will save taxpayer dollars.

Even Mayor Richard Berry shucked his suit jacket and pitched in with the moving. The furniture was donated. As were the small appliances, cookware and towels. The apartment is in a complex near Morris and Comanche in the city’s Northeast Heights.

Heading Home started two years ago and it is largely volunteer-driven.

“They find it very rewarding because they know there’s a need for it,” Amanda Barka, volunteer coordinator for the mayor’s office. “They talk about being very blessed to be able to help somebody else.”

Firefighters say the man who moved into the apartment Thursday was transported by ambulance from the streets to the hospital more than 80 times during a recent three month period. That cost the taxpayers about $144,000 – enough to pay his rent for 21 years.

“Firemen respond to emergencies every single day,” said off-duty firefighter Steve Vaughan, who helped with the heavy lifting. “We’re called to mitigate the emergency, but there’s so much more we could do afterwards. In this situation we get to go back and help somebody get a leg up in their situation and hopefully they never need us again.”

The man who moved in Thursday said he was on the streets for six years.

Firefighters said with a safe warm place to stay and some good food to eat he should be okay.