Editor's note: The author of this piece is a former resident and advocate for "Tent City." This particular piece emodies our policy to give community voices a place to be heard.
This week, the City of Albuquerque issued eviction notices to the residents of "Tent City." That is, to those residents who haven't been ran off, arrested or bribed out with a weekly voucher to a motel. By Thursday all must be out and gone; to go who knows where. My name is Vincent and I write this not just as a journalist but as someone who has been a part of the street life here downtown for over 20 years.
The people being talked about on the various stations as residents of Tent City are my friends. I have eaten with them, gotten high, and walked these streets alongside just about every one of those who live here in what is now known as “Tent City.”
"Hurry up ese, I'm fucking sick brother just let me go first".
"Here hold my arm Vince por favor."
"Is Spider Coming or What? I'll save his shot for him huh."
"Ya he's in the porta-potty taking a shit. Here, I'm done. This is some good shit… who’s dope is this?"
"Mines fool, it's good huh?"
“Here Faith, I don't have that much but it'll get you well babe."
"Fuck ya Vince, gracias. What are you gonna do now?"
"Shit, I gotta go look for a job. I ain't tryin’ to be out here forever. Next week I'm getting on the medecina, you should check it out Lucky."
"Ya but I can't leave the Tent homie, every time we leave our shit gets took."
"Hey Paul what's up? Break bread ese. Come in zip it up.”
“Shut up Faith, damn, that's all I got.”
“Bueno Vince, we'll see you later."
"Laters, orale brother, cuidao. Bye Faith bueno Luck."
And so the routine went day in day out until I got accepted over at the clinic.
What is now known as Tent City began as a simple camp when we were told we couldn't sleep in front of the Mission anymore. Kim had set up her tent with her dogs a couple of blocks away by the out houses and slowly everyone followed. Natives, Whites, Cubans, Blacks, and Barelas Veterans all homeless, all united in trying to survive the coming winter.
Along with homelessness comes the strife and obstacles of poverty. Some addicted to drugs and alcohol, others with mental health issues, and then there are those who just fell on hard times. It's been two months since the camp was moved from the Mission and Good Sheppard shelters and now the city wants it torn down. Tent City will soon be no more.
I start this story with people shooting up. Many think ‘oh that's disgusting, y’all deserve whatever you get.’ But the reality is that's just myself and my story. I relapsed after being released from prison and I'm not proud. But thanks to loved ones and friends I was able to lift myself up. And now they are dismantling the camp where my friends live and I'll be damned if I'm going to just stand around and let it happen without knowing what options these people have when all they own is taken from them.
41 hotel vouchers and temporary housing slips were issued by the city and members of APD. Crisis intervention teams came out and pamphlets were distributed. Bus tickets were given to a few Cubans and some that were on probation were worked with and detox centers got calls. APD claims there were zero arrests, however I know personally know at least three people that went to jail for different things.
Drug paraphernalia does scatter about the field across the street and graffiti scars the outhouses. Homelessness and addiction is not pretty and I won’t sit here and paint a sob story for the public. Yes one must be willing to change before change can happen.
What I am asking and writing for is that the administration recognize that the people living at Tent city just want options. They need resources not handouts; intervention and a feel of purpose. After the vouchers expire where do they go? When the tents are torn down, where do they sleep? When they're two minutes late to the food line, what do they eat? Homelessness is not a crime.
Monday, the city distributed eviction notices and Thursday the lives of about 20 people will change for the worst. Will you just sit back and watch? Are you just a comment on social media?
I don't want to begin to think that I can save anyone but I plan on getting the conversation started.
What will you do is the question.
"Damn brother you look good what are you doing here? This place ain't for you."
"I'm here to help Lucky. Where's spider?"
"He's in the porta-potty taking a shit hell be right here."