By Robert Nott and Claudia Silva, The Santa Fe New Mexican
You need over a quarter of a million dollars, on average, to buy a house in Albuquerque. It’s at least twice that much in Santa Fe. Want to rent an apartment? Even a one-bedroom will be more than $1,000 a month on average according to data from apartmentlist.com, in a state with an average household income of $54,000 before taxes. And, of course, there are plenty of New Mexicans who make less, including at least 2,600 homeless. “We must act, and act now; lives depend on it.
On a sweltering day at the end of July, Mike Amos crouched by his tent, fiddling with a few car batteries powered by solar panels that sat on the bottom rack of a shopping cart. Amos used them to charge his phone, e-cigarettes and an electric skillet while living at Albuquerque’s Coronado Park, where he has stayed for much of the last six years. He had a couple of other carts filled with his belongings, along with a bicycle and a brindle Tennessee hound named Skittles. “Compared to the rest of society, I’m a dirtbag,” he said. “But for here, I live pretty good.”
On any given night, some 70 to 120 people stayed in the park that had become the face of Albuquerque’s homeless crisis, with a reputation as a haven for drug use, violence and poor sanitation.
It started with a break up. About four years ago, James Moyer’s girlfriend and mother of his children kicked him out of her home. Moyer worked at a major retail store in Albuquerque, but without a car or enough money to pay rent on his own, he resorted to staying in a tent at a nearby city park so he could make it to his 6 a.m. shifts on time. But, Moyer said, showering for work became a problem even with a public pool nearby.
“I would go over to the pool and shower over there, but you could not do that every day.