Gateway Center is a step in addressing homelessness

Housing the unhoused. No resources to treat the underlying causes. We’ve all heard a lot about it in the news over the last few years.

Despite controversies and delays, the city is close to finishing the project to retrofit the old Lovelace Hospital into the Gateway Center. The Gateway Center will be a vital resource as our community scrambles to find the right mix of solutions at the right scale that will alleviate homelessness and housing insecurity. This facility will assist individuals in finding stable housing and filling gaps in the continuum of care for the unhoused.

Recently, members of ULI NM, a district council of the Urban Land Institute, a nonprofit group focused on bettering the urban environment, had the opportunity to tour the Gateway Center at the Gibson Health Hub. It was a sunny, cold day as our group of architects, real estate professionals, engineers, designers and planners toured the site under construction, dodging the workers and ducking under the occasional hanging wire.

As the tour progressed, some important takeaways emerged; solving Albuquerque’s housing crisis requires an “all of the above” approach. It demands an array of resources, careful programming, and investing in a comprehensive system of care.

Overhauling the old Lovelace Hospital into a facility like the Gateway Center requires radical repurposing of the existing spaces to fit new needs and purposes. It’s exciting to see how the unique characteristics of the building can be utilized to create a tailored and welcoming environment for the community it is intended to serve.

Despite being characterized as “hastily developed” by some in the media, it’s clear that much thought and care has gone into designing this new facility. We got a good feel for the possibility and the challenges of retrofitting a complex structure like this into usable space that’s welcoming and efficient.

The services that will be offered at the Gateway Center can make a big impact – especially when the professionals have access to the resources and facilities they need. The health hub will provide emergency overnight beds, medical sobering, and medical respite for individuals in need, primarily by referral. In this way, the Gateway Center is a positive step in addressing homelessness in Albuquerque, and our leaders should remain vigilant in ensuring full operational funding.

Clearly, the Gateway Center alone won’t solve homelessness and housing insecurity in Albuquerque. But we have made progress; statewide the capacity of emergency shelters like this has doubled since 2016 and the number of unhoused has been cut by a third in the last decade. We need more facilities that offer similar services throughout the region. We should be dedicated to creating better places for all – no matter their circumstance.

In addition to the Gateway Center, the Mayor’s Housing Forward plan offers some viable strategies for expanding housing options for people seeking a more permanent home. Remodeling vacant commercial spaces like office buildings and hotels is a good thing – adding to our housing stock will reduce the pressure on our market. It’s estimated that we need anywhere between 15,000 and 17,000 units in the next two years, so let’s get to work.