It’s not just the financial investment, coming from local, state and federal sources. There is also a large segment of our community eager for the opportunity to say, “I told you that was a bad idea; never try that again,” if things go wrong.
Which is why it was so discouraging to read reports in the Sun-News last month from both residents and neighbors that the complex was being neglected. Residents said there has been a lack of security and maintenance, resulting in damages to the property that do not get repaired, and increased criminal activity.
Neighbors on or near Pecos Street have complained about aggressive panhandlers, people sleeping on or near their property, attempts to break into their homes and finding waste left behind.
Cue the NIMBY Chorus. The complaints are coming just as city officials are planning an expansion of the facility.
The shame is that Desert Hope, and other complexes like it, are exactly what the city needs to help address a growing homeless population.
The 40-unit complex, which is owned and managed by the Mesilla Valley Public Housing Authority, provides more than just a roof overhead. There is also a community room with phones and computers. Staff from the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope are available to assist residents with job searches or to access health care or other services.
A refrigerator and pantry are stocked by Casa de Peregrinos. And, rent will never exceed 30 percent of a tenant’s annual income.
Getting people off the streets and into a safe, stable home environment is often the critical first step in helping them turn their lives around. A well-managed Desert Hope would be a benefit to the community and a Godsend to some of its most vulnerable members.
That’s where the JL Gray Company comes into the picture. It has been hired by the MVPHA to manage the complex, and has already started to clean and make repairs, company director Jeff Curry said. He said they would work to educate residents on the rules, and would terminate leases when necessary.
Las Cruces Police said they planned more patrols in the neighborhood around the complex. They have also started a new neighborhood watch group with area residents and business owners and have installed a new security camera near the apartments.
It is wrong to associate homelessness with crime. Desert Hope residents have the same desire for safety and security as we all do. They want to see the troublemakers removed just as much as their neighbors do.
City officials plan to expand on the Desert Hope model as they continue working to assist those who do not have stable, permanent housing. That’s why it’s so important to learn from past mistakes and to get this right.
Desert Hope will be a model, one way or the other. Right now, it is Exhibit A for all of those screaming, “Not in my backyard!” But, the right steps are being taken to alter that reality and make the complex an asset for our community.
Walter Rubel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Listen to the audio version