ALAMOSA — Wednesday night, members of Alamosa’s city council listened to public comment regarding the temporary homeless encampment on Old Airport Road across from the Alamosa Cemetery. Following a lengthy public comment segment, the Alamosa City Council voted unanimously to relocate the temporary encampment to city property south of the softball fields on 20th Street.
When COVID-19 arrived in the San Luis Valley it affected many aspects of daily life. With an at-risk population living in close proximity, local shelter La Puente had no choice but to close their doors leaving many unsheltered without an answer. Looking for solutions to the unique problem they faced, work was set on the encampment. The backlash from the public was swift following its announcement. Granted an opportunity to voice their opinion on Wednesday night, the public took full advantage. Alamosa’s councilors listened to more than 20 constituents tell their own negative experiences with the issue as well as a few offering solutions such as a ‘trash for food’ program as well as a ‘tiny house’ program. Whether the callers were sharing their experiences, offering solutions or just strongly asking the city to reconsider location one thing was made clear – in the words of Roberta Taylor-Hill “We do not want the camp in our backyard.”
City Manager Heather Brooks outlined the criteria and illustrated the thought process that went into the selection of the plot of land on Old Airport Road. After eliminating dedicated parks, and areas less than 3 acres, that left a few areas for relocation. Surrounded by non-residential areas and a low maintenance necessity the plot of land south of the softball fields checked a lot of boxes. Following an unopposed vote, the decision was made to move the encampment. Brooks took the time out to address a number of different concerns that were aired during public comment.
Brooks stated that a housing assessment for the data on the current house stock was going to take place to evaluate needs. Getting it done as soon as possible was important to begin applying for grants and begin working on any shortcomings that were found. She went on to support the creative solutions that were offered saying that proposed plans regarding transitional housing are “All things that are going to be explored and will be able to be supported by that data (from the housing assessment.)”
Regarding some expressed concerns she cleared up confusion about the city’s role and ability to deal with what might be perceived as unwanted populations. As long as individuals are not breaking the law and are following private property rules, city resources are limited in their response.
Brooks shared a similar message regarding buildings that have come under fire recently such as La Puente, Community Corrections and the Methadone Clinic. “We cannot prevent them from conducting their business as long as their doing it in a lawful manner that’s allowed within that area.”