ALBUQUERQUE, NM— The law firm of Ives and Flores, along with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico (ACLU-NM), the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty (NMCLP), and attorney Nick Davis filed a lawsuit today on behalf of unhoused people living in Albuquerque to stop the City of Albuquerque from unlawfully destroying encampments and property, jailing, and fining people.  

“They suddenly closed Coronado Park and threw my stuff in a garbage truck. I begged them to give it back, but they acted like I wasn’t even there,” said Scott Yelton, a plaintiff in the lawsuit who became unhoused in September 2019, after he lost his job and separated from his wife. “They took my stove, my tent, sleeping bag, clothes, and my birth certificate. But worse they took family photos I can never replace.”    

On August 17, 2022 the City of Albuquerque closed Coronado Park, where unsheltered New Mexicans found community and a place to sleep at night. City officials fenced off the park, forced people staying there to leave, and disposed of their belongings. This act displaced dozens of unsheltered New Mexicans, many of which still do not have a safe place to stay. 

The city acknowledges that there are not sufficient beds in the city’s existing shelters.  

Several of the plaintiffs state that living on the street was safer than staying at the Westside Shelter – where they faced theft and unsanitary conditions, and that every time they find a new place to live, the police force them to move.  

“With temperatures dropping, people are at risk of death from exposure to the elements. It is morally unacceptable for the city to punish people with no housing or shelter for engaging in life-sustaining activities,” said Laura Schauer Ives, partner at the law firm of Ives and Flores. “Instead of offering services like affordable housing, employment opportunities, and treatment for disabilities, the city is kicking them out of their homes.” 

In Albuquerque, and across the country, rising rents, historically low rental vacancy rates, and the decline of federally subsidized housing have led to a critical shortage of affordable housing units. Rents in Albuquerque increased between 10% and 19.9% in the first quarter of 2022.  

“The housing crisis impacts everyone but disproportionately hurts people with mental health and other disabilities,” said Maria Griego, director of economic equity at NMCLP. “Being forced to move and having belongings confiscated increases instability, making it even harder to find work, get medications, see a social worker, or find permanent housing.” 

“Laws that criminalize people experiencing homelessness make it harder for people to find housing and jobs. Even misdemeanor convictions can make someone ineligible for subsidized housing,” said Maria Martinez Sanchez, legal director at ACLU-NM. “Criminalizing homelessness does nothing to address its root causes. In fact, it exacerbates the problem. We know the solution – affordable housing. The city just needs to find the will and the courage to make it happen.”  

A copy of the lawsuit can be found below.