GOP Senator Introduces Bill To Help Homeless
New Mexico's homeless programs that help people get a fresh start could get a funding boost if a legislative bill wins approval in Santa Fe.
Senate Bill 50 is sponsored by Albuquerque Republican Sander Rue. He says as a member of the Mortgage Finance Authority interim committee, he wanted to do something to help homeless people and families hit hard by the recession.
"We're just trying to create a mechanism here, a safety net, where these folks can have access to some funds that may help them in a transition period, to get their feet back on the ground and allow them to get on with their life, and you know help them not plunge further into that situation."
SB50 will set aside a half-million dollars for the New Mexico Mortgage Finance Authority to provide grants to agencies like Santa Fe's St. Elizabeth Shelter and Life Link Services. Carolyn Luna-Anderson is the executive director of Life Link:
"Housing is absolutely vital to anyone's stability."
Life Link has been providing long-term housing and support services for 25 years. Luna-Anderson says helping to rebuild lives results in successful reintegration into society:
"The intent is that we not keep someone in an emergency shelter for months. We keep them there long enough to get them into some sort of independent housing."
Kenneth Bowers has been in the program at Life Link and St. Elizabeth's medical respite program for five months. He's been able to recover from major neck surgery and other ailments, and he's now ready to move out on his own, just as dozens of others have done:
"…and they're working with me until I can get my social security and disability and they're going to place me into housing and I'm gonna be stable and I'm gonna have a new life, you know, and it's just gonna be great. (Deborah: You want to work?) Part-time or whatever, yes! I wanna do something, but I can't, being out on the streets or sleeping in some bush or behind a dumpster or up in Hyde Park like I did for two and half weeks with no cover, no nothing' , it was terrible."
St. Elizabeth's executive director Deborah Tang says guiding clients like Kenneth requires a two-pronged approach, and she says, the money from SB50 that the state's Coalition to end Homelessness supports, will go a long way towards success.
"It is absolutely crucial that we have rental assistance combined with supportive services that make sure that people who get housing stay in housing."
Governor Martinez's spokesman said they haven't formally reviewed the legislation, and he didn't say whether she would sign the bill. It hasn't yet been scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.