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America's 'Radical Elders' continue their work for fairness, justice; SCOTUS upholds law disarming domestic abusers; Workplace adoption benefits help families, communities; Report examines barriers to successful post-prison re-entry in NC.

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A congresswoman celebrates Biden protections for mixed status families, Louisiana's Ten Commandments law faces an inevitable legal challenge, and a senator moves to repeal the strict 19th century anti-obscenity and anti-abortion Comstock Act.

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A Minnesota town claims the oldest rural Pride Festival while rural educators say they need support to teach kids social issues, rural businesses can suffer when dollar stores come to town and prairie states like South Dakota are getting help to protect grasslands.

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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