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At least 15 dead as severe weather sweeps across central US; on Memorial Day, IA labor leaders honor fallen workers; Medical center installs microgrid to safeguard clinic power supply; 'Second look' laws gain traction, but MS sticks to elderly parole; Will summer heat melt New Mexicans' cravings for ice cream?

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One congressman cites ways Biden could get more support from communities of color. A new Louisiana law reclassifies two abortion medications as controlled substances. And Ohio advocates work to boost youth voter turnout.

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Smokey Bear thought only "you" could prevent forest fires, but decomposing mushrooms may also help, a Native American community in Oregon is achieving healthcare sovereignty, and Colorado farmers hope fast-maturing, drought-tolerant seeds will better handle climate change.

NM Homelessness Declines, But Rural Folks Face Barriers

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Tuesday, March 28, 2023   

In the past two years, homelessness in America has risen only 1%, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development - which nonetheless reports a divide between urban and rural areas. In New Mexico, homelessness declined by one-third in the past decade, according to a summary delivered to state lawmakers by the Legislative Finance Committee.

Jeff Olivet, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, said having enough rent to stay housed requires finding a job that pays a decent wage - often harder in rural areas - where even a 10-mile distance can be a huge barrier.

"To get from a place that's affordable to live to a job that pays a living wage - if you don't have a vehicle - there's just not the public transportation infrastructure or any way to get there," he said.

New Mexico's emergency homeless shelter capacity has more than doubled since 2016, with progress especially noted in Albuquerque. The report to the Legislature showed that on any given night, New Mexico has about 2,600 people who are homeless.

Like many other states, the supply of affordable housing in New Mexico has declined - by 50% over a recent 20 year period, according to the recent report. That makes finding housing especially tough for individuals struggling with mental health and substance-abuse issues, and in those cases treatment is often only available in larger cities such as like Albuquerque or Santa Fe, according to Olivet.

"In many rural parts of the country, rural New Mexico for example - where's there's just massive distance, even if they're wanting to get treatment, ready to go into treatment - there's no place available within 100-miles, 200 miles," he said.

The HUD report showed during the pandemic, economic stressors and the dramatic increase in rental costs drove homelessness upward, but large investments by states and the federal government through the American Rescue Plan reduced the overall numbers nationwide.

Disclosure: New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness contributes to our fund for reporting on Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault, Housing/Homelessness. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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Ice cream makers in the U.S. produce more than 1.38 billion gallons of ice cream annually, with consumption usually peaking in July. (auremar/Adobe Stock)

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