Albuquerque, New Mexico – When a state lawmaker and a city mayor are forced to fight a lawsuit over their response to homelessness, the result is a bus that is almost impossible to operate.
On a recent Friday morning, a bus filled with the homeless, including two dozen or so men, women and children, drove around Albuquerque, one of the most expensive cities in the United States to live in.
The bus is owned by the Albuquerque Public Transit Authority (APTA), and it carries more than 100 passengers, most of whom have been evicted from their homes.
“It’s not a problem in Albuquerque,” said Albuquerque police officer, James Martinez.
“We get the homeless out of here.
They need help.
They don’t need us.”
The bus, which was equipped with portable toilets, water dispensers and blankets, took a while to reach the homeless camp in front of the Albuquerque Police Department.
It is not uncommon for homeless people to use the buses.
The APTA has been paying for it.
“We’re going to use this as a service, not a tax,” said APTA Commissioner, Michael Schuster.
“It’s going to go towards a specific goal of keeping people off the street, which we believe we’re doing.”
It’s a goal that is supported by APTA, but the bus service is also a source of frustration for residents and other stakeholders, who argue that the buses have a disproportionate impact on the homeless.
“I was there on a Friday night.
It was the worst bus I’ve ever seen.
It had no seats, it had no blankets, no water, no anything,” said Andrea Rodriguez, who lives in Albuquerque.”
They’re just going to sit there.
I just don’t understand that,” said another homeless woman who asked that her last name not be used.APTA has spent nearly $1 million to refurbish the buses, but there are still more than 20 complaints to the state of New Mexico.
It says it will address the issues that led to the complaints in the next few months, but some residents and the homeless themselves are not satisfied with the outcome.
“When I see the buses go, I just start to get angry, and then I start to cry, and I’m just like, ‘What am I supposed to do?
What are we supposed to tell these people?’,” said a homeless woman named Angela.
“They need help.”
It is difficult for APTA to explain why its buses were able to stay on the streets of Albuquerque for so long, and why there are so many complaints.
It’s hard to say how much money is spent on refurbishing and upgrading the buses because APTA does not have a financial disclosure form.
But in the meantime, the APTA is paying the homeless to get off the bus.
“The buses are our service.
We have to keep them on the street,” said Martinez.
In response to complaints about the homeless on the buses in Albuquerque, APTA and its partners in the city have offered the homeless a $100 voucher.
APTA officials said the vouchers are not transferable, and if the homeless receive the vouchers, they can transfer them to another bus.
The vouchers are meant to address the problem of people who are homeless, but critics argue that they are a way for APT to make money while also maintaining its position as a private transportation company.
“This is just an easy way to make more money,” said resident David Alvarado.
“That’s not what we should be doing.”
“It is not a service that we should continue to offer,” said Schuster, the Albuquerque police department.