St. John's & Safe Outdoor Spaces

Safe Outdoor Spaces (SOS) is a city project that is an attempt to solve some of the issues of homelessness in the Albuquerque area based on similar projects in other cities. It involves the use of available spaces around the city to build fenced and guarded areas to allow homeless individuals and families to stay temporarily in tents, RVs or automobiles and enjoy the security of controlled access provided by an operating organization. 

 

The St John’s version of SOS would be limited to people without vehicles who would live in tents inside a fenced area on the St John’s campus. Security and social services for the residents would be provided by the staff of Heading Homean Albuquerque nonprofit whose mission is to help the homeless community. 

The decision to move forward with the project has NOT been made at this time. 

  • As of the first week of October 2022, the project is in its very preliminary stages. 

  • There is no definitive timeline for this project, as it requires approval and resources from the City of Albuquerque.

  • If you have questions that are not answered on this page, please email them to Les Bruce at lbruce@stjohns-abq.org so we can add the answers here. This page is meant to be a living document and will be regularly updated with new information.

Key Takeaways

What is the status of the SOS project at St John’s? 

  • As of the first week of October 2022, the project is in its very preliminary stages. 

  • Due to city actions and funding maneuvers by the city council, the potential of the project was brought to St John’s leadership with a short deadline to apply to be an SOS site. The pastor asked the leadership of the church’s major committees, the lay-leaders and staff about the project and they elected to submit the application to the city pending development of further details and acceptance by the congregation before further action was taken to make the project a reality. 

  • The application has been accepted by the city and is under review for further development. 

 

The decision to move forward with the project has NOT been made at this time. 

What has the City published about SOS?

  • The city website page on Safe Outdoor Spaces is HERE

  • The section of the city’s Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) dealing with SOS is HERE

  • The SOS page has city and city council FAQs plus links to zoning maps for reference. 

  • You are encouraged to investigate the information available on these sites.

Where will the area dedicated to SOS be located on the St. John’s Campus?

  • At the current time this is uncertain. The original plan was to use the south end of the east parking lot, but that location is not feasible due to the agreement with the California Corner businesses to use our parking lot for employee parking.

  • The other option being considered is the graveled area south of the sanctuary. This is the preliminary map which includes the east transept area and the prayer labyrinth. The St John's SOS team has removed the area east of the Sanctuary, north of the east transept sidewalk from use for SOS.

  • The area south of the east transept sidewalk and around the south end of the church should be able to hold up to 20 tents and would block off passage around the south end of the church. Heading Home estimates that a minimum of 20 tent spaces in the site would make the effort worthwhile. 

Who would stay in the tents? 

  • The management of the site would be by the Heading Home (HH) organization. HH operates the Westside Emergency Housing Center, Albuquerque Heading Home, Albuquerque Opportunity Center, Albuquerque Street Connect, Families Heading Home and the Lexington Hotel program in Gallup and would operate this facility at St John’s.

  • HH would be responsible to screen applicants, provide a tent and basic supplies to the residents, provide security in SOS area as well as the St John’s Campus. 

  • The St John’s SOS Site (SJSOSS) would be available to homeless persons who commit to follow rules established for the site, and are in verified need of living space. No drug or alcohol use would be permitted and any violent behavior could result in removal of the offenders. 

  • Sex offenders are not allowed to participate in the SOS program.

What services would be provided to residents of St. John's SOS (SJSOS)? 

  • Space for a tent, security inside the fence, restroom facilities, handwashing stations, and showers will be provided. The options are for portable facilities or use of St John’s facilities are being considered. 

  • HH staff will be on-site to provide counselling and social services to residents to help them find homes, jobs, and make connections to form healthy relationships that could improve their circumstances. 

  • HH Security staff would provide security for both the enclosed area and the overall St John’s campus. 

What is the relationship between St John’s and Heading Home? 

  • If SJSOS is approved by the congregation, the portion of the campus needed for the space would be provided. HH would operate the site. Members of St John’s would have the opportunity to minister to the residents if desired. 

  • St John’s would be the primary applicant for the program to the city because of the zoning exemptions offered in the IDO for religious institutions. That would mean considerable workload for the church in setting up the program. HH has committed to assist with the paperwork load during the application phase. 

How long would SJSOS be in operation? 

  • HH has indicated the maximum time they would prefer to operate the site would be 24 months. It is hoped that after that there would be no need to continue the operation hoping that the other city programs would be in full operation and there would no longer be the need for SOS. 

What is the timeline for the project?

  • The preliminary application has been submitted and accepted by the city. The city is evaluating all applications and before we move forward the city must approve the application. That approval is likely but will probably take time. ​

  • If approved then a full plan, which includes 1) Operations Plan; 2) Management Plan; 3) Security Agreement; 4) Scaled Site Plan must be submitted. HH has drafted #1 and #2. #3 is in work and #4 cannot be produced until the concept is agreed to by St John’s. 

  • If the full plan is submitted and approved, then site development (fence installation, procurement and installation of equipment including showers and restrooms) must be completed. This would be the responsibility of the church with the costs to be reimbursed by the city. 

  • HH anticipates homeless individuals/families would be leery and reluctant to apply for residency at first so the site could remain empty for some time. 

  • SJSOS will probably not be ready to operate until January or February 2023 at the earliest. 

What about the concerns of local businesses and neighborhood? 

  • Part of the application process has involved discussions with nearby businesses, neighborhood associations and Zuni School. Any concerns they express will be dealt with and considered in the church’s decision to move forward. 

Further questions?

  • This FAQ is intended to be a living document where the entire congregation can take part and see what is being asked and what the answers are. 

  • If you have any questions or comments, please send them to Les Bruce at lbruce@stjohns-abq.org. Answers will be posted to this page.

  • Please refer to this page often for updates and changes. 

  • Learn more about Heading Home by click HERE to visit their website.

  • The city website page on Safe Outdoor Spaces is HERE

  • The section of the city’s Integrated Development Ordinance (IDO) dealing with SOS is HERE

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