The City of Albuquerque is still working out the kinks in its plan to protect some of the most vulnerable of its populace – its homeless – during the coronavirus pandemic. Albuquerque manages an emergency shelter, commonly called the West Side. It can house up to 450 people a night. Because of the outbreak of COVID-19, a type of coronavirus, officials have recommended washing hands regularly, staying at home and social distancing when engaging with others to prevent the spread of the disease. But people who are homeless might not be able to adapt as easily, according to advocates.
An Albuquerque city councilor wants to take a crack at enforcing tougher restrictions on panhandling. Councilor Trudy Jones this week introduced a measure that would ban people from walking and standing in street medians and engaging with drivers and passengers from the sidewalk except in cases of emergencies. Jones’ proposed ordinance would also bar drivers from stopping in a street or intersection “for the sole purpose of interacting with any pedestrian” except in the case of an emergency. City law already bars people from soliciting on a street, highway, entrance or exit ramp for a ride or work. Loiterers are also currently banned from holding parking spaces for cars that are in the process of parking in exchange for money.
Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry announced a partnership between the City of Albuquerque and United Way of Central New Mexico to curb panhandling. In a press conference, Berry said the city and United Way are working together on the new “There’s a Better Way” campaign. He said the goal is to offer an alternative to giving cash directly to panhandlers. The campaign is based on the idea of putting signs around Albuquerque that encourages donations through DONATEabq.org instead of handing money to panhandlers. Berry said the signs will also try to encourage those in need to call 311 for a list of organizations that offer assistance.