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‘Something must be done’: Las Cruces business leader asks city to address challenges of homeless population

A homeless man sits outside the former Burger Time building on Avenida de Mesilla in September 2021.
KVIA
A homeless man sits outside the former Burger Time building on Avenida de Mesilla in September 2021.

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - For the first time in her 50 years of living in Las Cruces, a prominent businesswoman addressed city leaders with fears for her employees' safety after several confrontations with the homeless population.

"Something must be done about our vagrant problem," said Wanda Bowman on Monday, the owner of Ashley Furniture HomeStore on Del Rey Boulevard. "Not only to my neighborhood, but citywide."

This week, Bowman told the Las Cruces City Council that a homeless man wandered around the shopping center carrying a hatchet. On Saturday morning, she said a person was camped in front of the entrance of her business. She also said the homeless population has broken the padlocks to her electric outlets and left human waste outside her building.

"It's not just unsightly," Bowman said. "It's not just bad for business. It's dangerous, and the city has an obligation to protect us from such threats."

In January, city leaders and non-profits strategized how to meet the homeless population's needs in a meeting that lasted two hours. In September, the mayor toured homeless communities with ABC-7.

“Some people just prefer to be on the street," said Officer Brian Klimeck in the January meeting. "It might not make sense and I don’t understand everything there is about mental illness, but I can think of two dozen people that I’ve known over the last two years who prefer to be on the streets."

"I don't think council wants to criminalize homelessness," said Mayor Ken Miyagishima, who acknowledged that some, but not all homeless people trespass or commit crimes. "I hear you. I get the emails every day... and rightfully so."

Mayor Pro Tem Kasandra Gandara acknowledged the millions the city has contributed to the Community of Hope campus. She said victim advocates are working to help those in difficult situations.

"I know that it's getting worse," Gandara said. "When this community comes together to address an issue, we do fine. We're going to need the business community, the faith-based community, the government and others to come together and address this."

Kate Bieri

Kate Bieri is ABC-7’s New Mexico Mobile Newsroom reporter and co-anchors ABC-7’s weekend evening newscasts.

Comments

9 Comments

  1. The last belligerent or possibly armed homeless person that approached me I told him to stop and fall back. He refused and proceeded to come towards me so I pulled my EDC on him. That got his attention real fast. Not only did he stop and fall back he ran away. It’s better safe than sorry.

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