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Desert Hope: A Las Cruces Option for People Who've Been Homeless

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Wednesday, September 29, 2021   

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - A new apartment complex built to serve people who've been chronically unhoused in Las Cruces was three-quarters full when it opened last month. Advocates say it's proof that more permanent, supportive housing could help solve the growing problem.

Some of the 40 units at Desert Hope, operated by the Mesilla Valley Public Housing Authority, are still open for leasing, according to executive director Nicole Martinez. She said federal pandemic tax credits have made a difference in how local communities can help those who need housing.

"And I think it really shown a light on how quickly that can happen for people," she said, "and that homeless prevention funding is something that needs to stay on the radar, as it had not been before."

Martinez noted that Las Cruces is just cracking the surface with its additional 40 units. To qualify to live there, tenants must be verified as chronically homeless and have a permanent disability. In early 2021, the Department of Housing and Urban Development reported that, for the first time in many years, homelessness among veterans and families did not improve over the previous year.

Martinez, who has worked to end the cycle of homelessness for 15 years, said at least 1,000 more people have been served since the pandemic began. She said adequate resources can make a huge difference for anyone on the brink of homelessness, but added that she's worried about what the future holds.

"We anticipate seeing more people that aren't able to piece things together," she said, "or as rental relief and things like that start to dry up."

She added that community partnerships will allow quarterly health-care screenings, along with nutrition and budgeting classes for people living at Desert Hope, in an effort to help them transition out of homelessness. More information is online at mvpha.org.

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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