The Albuquerque City Council voted to amend a city zoning ordinance on June 6 and allow Safe Outdoor Spaces (SOS) to be used as a safer, legal encampment option for people experiencing homelessness. However, public outcry about the amendment led the council to reverse course and pass a one-year moratorium on SOS on August 15. In response, homelessness advocates worked alongside people experiencing homelessness to protect SOS, ultimately convincing Albuquerque Mayor Keller to veto the council’s bill reversing SOS. A subsequent vote by the City Council to override the mayor’s veto failed on September 7. As of the time of writing, funding for SOS remained in question.
SOS sites are sanctioned encampments that legally allow people experiencing homelessness to stay in public outdoor areas approved by the city and managed by nonprofit organizations. The sites that chosen are often places where people experiencing homelessness are already congregating. When a location becomes an SOS site, essential services and resources are made available, such as bathrooms, food and water, and safety protections. Those interested in staying at sites must apply, and sites have maximum capacity limits.
The council added SOS as a legal land use when it voted 5-4 to amend the Integrated Development Ordinance in June. Weeks later, City Councilor Brook Bassan reversed her support in response to sharp criticism, and the City Council introduced a one-year moratorium on SOS. This measure passed with a 6-3 vote on August 15.
Two days after the SOS moratorium passed, Coronado Park – a major encampment of people experiencing homelessness in Albuquerque – was cleared. The New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness (NMCEH), an NLIHC state partner, and other local advocates met with people impacted by the encampment sweep. Together, advocates started a petition urging the mayor to veto the moratorium legislation. After winning the mayor’s veto, advocates refocused their efforts on the City Council and convinced Councilor Trudy Jones to vote against overriding the mayor’s veto, leaving the council without the supermajority needed to reverse a veto and SOS in effect.
On the same day the Albuquerque City Council failed to override Mayor Keller’s veto of the SOS moratorium, the council passed a resolution redirecting funds from SOS to provide supportive services to homeless and near homeless veterans in the fiscal year (FY) 2023 budget. Until late last week, NMCEH was advocating for Mayor Keller to veto this legislation before a September 17 deadline to ensure funding for SOS in FY23.
For more information about NMCEH and homelessness advocacy efforts in New Mexico, visit: https://www.nmceh.org/advocacy.
For more information about Safe Outdoor Spaces, visit: https://www.cabq.gov/planning/safe-outdoor-spaces.