Española Pathways Shelter organizers received approval to operate in the former Aaron’s Furniture building at 628 N Riverside Dr. at the Española Planning and Zoning Commission’s Oct. 10 meeting, and now aims for a December opening.
An Oct. 21 press release said organizers are about to sign a lease for the property and that the Pathways Board “is frantically looking for emergency options to house people who are currently on the streets until the new facility is ready for occupation.” Organizers first hoped to open Nov. 15, a year after the project’s conception.
As a condition of the new five-year special use permit, the homeless shelter’s September permit to operate in a residential building on Calle Delgado was voided. Neighbor Jose Sandoval had appealed the Commission’s decision on the Calle Delgado site after a contentious Commission hearing with many community supporters and neighborhood opponents.
Planning and Land Use staff recommended that the Calle Delgado site permit be voided only after a lease and approval from the Construction Industries Division were finalized, but the Commission opted to void it immediately.
“There’s a chance, albeit slim, that this site may not be finalized,” Hubler said. “If they gave up the Calle Delgado site tonight, and then over the next month or two months this doesn’t work out, then we have no shelter. So staff’s will is to end up with a shelter.”
Commission Chair Erle Wright said the pending appeal would be burdensome for the City Council, the appellant, and Pathways organizers. He also questioned the permit’s proposed five-year term and staff’s proposal of a clause specifying that a change in owners would not invalidate the permit.
“Given the nature of this—we don’t know the lease term—I think it is important for the city to work with it,” he said. “I mean this has got to be a partnership with everybody going down the road, and I think a shorter term is merited. And that said, I’m wondering why you went with the maximum (permit length) on this, especially given the decision the Commission made at the last (hearing).”
At the last Commission meeting, from which Wright had an excused absence, Commissioners granted a permit for just two years and requested that in that time organizers search for a larger site for long-term use.
Riverside property co-owner Jeff Branch said at the hearing that while they are currently working out a lease, they are exploring ways for Pathways, which is temporarily using the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness as a fiscal agent, to ultimately own the building.
“They touched my heart and obviously understand the issues here in Española,” Branch said. “Our goal here is to allow this to be a long-term, hopefully, solution.”
The Commission tweaked the condition on ownership to dictate that the permit would be valid so long as the Pathways Shelter operates there.
Interim chief of police Roger Jimenez submitted a letter describing the much-larger Riverside property as the “optimal location.” No one spoke against the new site, but its previous commercial use presents new challenges to a speedy opening.
Significant tenant improvements including the installation of showers and meeting fire safety codes are necessary before a planned soft opening with 10 beds for men and five for women. After a second round of improvements, the full shelter is planned to have 10 beds for men and 10 for women. Organizers plan to immediately implement a case management program when the shelter opens, and are developing detailed safety plans with multiple law enforcement agencies.
Planned security measures include fencing around the site, a breathalyzer and bag check on intake, and a hand-off plan to local law enforcement when necessary when ejecting residents who violate house rules against drugs, alcohol and weapons.
Roger Montoya, an original Pathways organizer, said much of their security plans were derived from St. Elizabeth Shelters in Santa Fe.
The newly-formed 501(c)3 nonprofit Española Pathways Shelter appointed its first officers Oct. 11. General contracting service Avanyu, LLC co-owner Mateo Peixinho will serve as chair, with Santa Fe County Chief Deputy Treasurer Jennifer Manzanares as vice chair, Rio Arriba County Health and Human Services Department Clinical Director Amber Leichtle as secretary, and Doctor of Oriental Medicine Kartar Khalsa as treasurer. Española Valley and Los Alamos Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Yvonne Atencio and Rio Arriba County Commissioner and Rock Christian Fellowship Associate Pastor James Martinez are also Board members.
Montoya, now an incorporator of the nonprofit, said for now he will serve as a consultant to the Shelter in his capacity as United Way of Northern New Mexico Collective Impact Director, along with fellow incorporator and Collective Impact Liaison Cristian Madrid. Matanza Board President and original Pathways organizer Ralph Martinez and Rio Arriba County Economic Development Director Christopher Madrid are also nonprofit incorporators.