Albuquerque’s Motel 6 provides a snapshot of town’s housing disaster

September 24th, 2021 at 12:21 pm

The hot pavement outside Motel 6 on Carlisle Boulevard in Albuquerque was bustling one afternoon. A few guests passed through the corridors; others sat outside on lounge chairs to relax from their rooms. Nearby, a man was selling American flag face masks and handcrafted bracelets.

The motel is part of the largest chain in North America and is characterized by its red, white and blue logo. While the motels serve as an affordable option for travelers in many cities, this hotel has become a landing spot for people with nowhere else to go.

They come from all over the city to this roadside station that offers a hassle-free shelter that is readily available. Some have gone through difficult times because they lost a life of comfort and safety. “Tenía una casa, tenía un hogar, pero me enfermé y, bueno, se acabó toda esa vida,” said Mauricio Acuña, who is originally from Puerto Rico. “I had a house, I had a home, but I got sick and, well, my whole life ended.”

Others never know anything other than a life on the street. “I don’t stay in one place for long. I’m a very nomadic person for my age, “says James Wheat, 29.” I haven’t stayed in one place for long in years. ”

Many tenants would not be able to meet apartment rental application requirements or qualify for other housing options.

Photo credit Don J. Our / Searchlight New Mexico

Their dependence on the motel is a sign of Albuquerque’s housing crisis. Prices are rising and the need for affordable housing far exceeds supply.

According to research by the Urban Institute, the city would have to provide 15,500 affordable rental units and 800 units of short-term housing for the homeless in order to meet the housing needs.

The crisis got worse during the pandemic, proponents said. The number of homeless has risen nearly 20 percent in the past four years, according to an analysis by Searchlight New Mexico of “point-in-time” counts that show the number of people in shelters, on the street and without a in one certain night home.

To keep people off the streets, the city of Albuquerque is helping to cover the cost of staying at some motels. But Motel 6 doesn’t accept city vouchers or recommendations from nearby churches, said Sunny Patel, the motel’s manager. People with these subsidies “cause a lot of problems,” he said.

Patel said about two dozen people live on the streets near the motel. “There is a problem in this city and I don’t know how [the city is] will fix it, ”he said. “We are not ready to be a solution to the housing crisis.”

Rachel Biggs, chief strategy officer at Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless, said the city has a patchy system of responding to housing insecurity and is facing political hurdles to make profound changes.

“These types of big, sustainable investments take years, and it takes years to see the really important, big effects of it. And political cycles are fast, ”said Biggs. “Our system is designed not to prioritize some of these more difficult things.”

In the absence of a solution, the residents of Motel 6 in Carlisle are trying to get further. Renay Torres, who is blind, said people don’t know how easy it is to end up where she is. Just a few months ago she was in a stable situation. Then she lost her son, who succumbed to a sudden illness, she said, too upset to give details. As a result, she moved to her ex-husband in the motel to provide support.

“You will be here,” said Torres, raising his hand, “and a month will go by, a day will go by, and then you will be at the bottom.”

She spends much of her day avoiding the stuffy atmosphere of her room and sits outside on a garden chair to talk to other guests. The people staying at the motel are mixed, she said. “You think good and bad.” In her need she found a community.

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