Good Afternoon, Juan –
I wanted to share with you information I’ve passed along on two recent public participation themes. I’ve pasted these from emails to others (hence the moments of odd verb tense).
The first section references comments on Lubbock TX’s success in addressing homelessness; I’m highlighting this in yellow:
I make good faith efforts to look into any suggestions brought to me or the larger Council, save for those I know are absolutely infeasible (e.g., actions that violate the law). My schedule is pretty loaded this week, but I took some time for a quick search of one of the subjects you raised: How Lubbock, TX is addressing homelessness. I found this news article, which based on the similarity in language, seems to be what you were referencing:
It was published on April 29, 2022, and notes 5-year declines in homelessness (generally) and chronic homelessness (particularly). This seems to be based on point-in-time counts of the homeless population.
I also found this article, published about two weeks later, on May 11, 2022:
It reports that the Lubbock City Council “approved a resolution acknowledging that a homelessness problem exists in Lubbock” and marking a change in approach, from what appears to be a regionally based model to a more local strategy. I wanted to look into that directly to see how they were characterizing the problem, so went to the source. The resolution itself is available with some scrolling at:
A portion of the resolution reads “WHEREAS, evidence-based assessments in recent years have identified substantial and increasing numbers of homeless individuals in the Lubbock community;” (pg. 677/678, if you open the PDF version of the agenda packet and look at the page counter at the top). It’s also noted that $3,500,000 of ARPA funding will be allocated to this work.
So, per usual with statistics, there are apparently several stories that can be told. I’m not saying that Lubbock is getting it wrong. I’m just saying that the reporting was looking into one facet of a sprawling issue, and to say that Lubbock has solved homelessness, or that the problems Las Cruces is facing are not seen in Lubbock due to alternative ways of handling the challenges, cannot be taken at face value.
I’m not quibbling with the PIT statistics or the reporting about them – I’m sure they’re correct. However, per the Lubbock City Council resolution, there are other data indicating “substantial and increasing numbers of homeless individuals in the Lubbock community.” The Council resolution, their change in strategy in dealing with homelessness, and the allocation of $3.5M seem to say that there is a story or situation beyond the PIT numbers. Otherwise, I’m sure they’d be celebrating!
For the heck of it, I also took a quick look at some Facebook sites similar to Las Cruces Community Watch (e.g., Operation Crime Watch Lubbock) to see how the community was being perceived and presented there. Please note: I do not consider social media reliable sources for stats (or governing decisions); however, I was curious to see what “regular” folks living in Lubbock had to say about their city. Unfortunately, it looks a lot like the sorts of things frequently forwarded to me: package thieves, property crime, stolen vehicles, etc. I’d be even more curious to see what the City Council’s public comment periods look like.
The second section references comments on a homeless curfew/busing the homeless out of the City (highlighted in green):
While I can’t speak to what Mr. Goodman was referencing in his comments, I have looked into the constitutionality (on the federal/U.S. level, which supersedes the state, regardless) of common suggestions to address homelessness. As one of the strategies you referenced in your comments recommends busing homeless people out of the City, I’m going to paste text I’ve sent out on this to several people who have also made this suggestion:
One of the most common suggestions I receive is to transport individuals to selected locations (the most commonly cited is the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope [MVCOH] campus on Amador Ave.) and to essentially keep them confined to the area, or to take them out of the city completely. Former City Attorney Jennifer Vega provided a succinct overview of why this is not a legal option. She noted during the City Council Work Session held on 1/24/2022 that two cases ruled on by the 9th Circuit Court resulted in the assertion that, as individuals have constitutionally protected personal autonomy, governments cannot force them to move from public spaces. The sole situation in which such actions might be justified (legally) is if the municipality has “adequate and sufficient” resources available to accommodate the individuals.
Ms. Vega noted, however, that “adequate and sufficient” are not defined precisely in the rulings. This can muddy legal waters and leave the City open to potential litigation. If you’d like to read/view the work session, I’ve attached the minutes to this message. You can also view a recording of the session at https://lascruces.civicweb.net/Portal/MeetingInformation.aspx?Org=Cal&Id=378; the portion of the meeting where case law was discussed begins around the 3:00:30 time mark. If you have time, I recommend viewing the entire discussion on homelessness (which starts around 2:02:30) for a more complete picture of current City- and partner-associated activities working to address homelessness.
I also did a quick search on the strategy of curfews. These, too, are extremely difficult to leverage legally. In particular, a curfew cannot be implemented on a single group of people (in the case of your suggestion, homeless residents). Instead, to be legally justifiable (from what I’ve read) a curfew would need to be placed on the entire population of the City. I’m sure you recognize the unfeasibility of telling the whole of Las Cruces that they need to be off the streets at 10:30 PM, not to mention how businesses catering to nightlife would respond.
I wanted to pass this along, should any of your membership be interested in additional information and context.
Becki Graham, PhD
City Councilor, District 3
Direct: (575) 386-7541
Main: (575) 541-2100
Fax: (575) 541-2119