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Morning Word: Homelessness Down in New Mexico

November 18, 2016, 7:30 am
Homelessness Numbers Disputed
A US Department of Housing and Urban Development report contends homelessness declined almost 14 percent between 2015 and 2016 in New Mexico, and that it's down almost 25 percent since 2007. But homeless advocates here dispute the numbers and say they’re seeing more people seeking shelter.
Based on the number of people seen at Joy Junction, the state’s largest homeless shelter, HUD estimates are clearly an undercount, said shelter founder Jeremy Reynalds. He believes the PIT count “is false, misleading, disingenuous and should be scrapped because it makes people think homelessness is going down, and it may be the way HUD counts, but their count does not reflect reality.”

Since 2007, “there has been an increase in permanent supportive housing” in Albuquerque, which no doubt factors into the decline tracked by HUD, said Lisa Huval, associate director of the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness. However, the count does not include people who sleep on friends’ couches, find temporary shelter in cheap motels and other “unsheltered” people who simply cannot be located. 
Special Master Appointed to Oversee Reforms
Joey Peters reports a federal judge has selected Lawrence M Parker to oversee food stamp and Medicaid processing reforms at the New Mexico Human Service Department.
The appointment comes as part of a decades-old lawsuit that alleged HSD wasn’t properly processing federal aid to New Mexicans. While that lawsuit, known as Hatten-Gonzales, resulted in a consent decree in 1990, an Albuquerque-based nonprofit argued in court this year that the state wasn’t properly following guidelines laid out under the consent decree.
Audit Methodology Questioned
Three top state officials are expressing concerns about “plans to collect an estimated $193 million that it failed to collect from premium health insurance taxes from 2010 through 2015.” Superintendent of Insurance John Franchini is disputing the results of an audit and questions the methodology used to determine the total tax amount still due.

F-16’s Could Be Headed to Holloman
Holloman Air Force Base near Alamogordo is under consideration by the Air Force to get two F-16 squadrons from Utah as a base there prepares to house new F-35’s. If the move is approved the base would add 690 new military personnel.

"You’re Hired"
Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions is Donald Trump’s pick to be US Attorney General, according to senior officials on the president-elect’s transition team. Sessions, who was the first senator to endorse Trump, will have to be confirmed by the Senate. In 1986, he withdrew his name from consideration for a federal judgeship after being dogged by racist comments he’d made surfaced. On Thursday, after meeting with Japan’s prime minister, Trump offered Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn the job of national security adviser. 

French Vies for Another Court Appointment

Stephen French, who was ousted from his seat on the Appellate Court by voters on November 8, now wants Gov. Susana Martinez to reappoint him to fill one of two court vacancies. Andrew Oxford reports that nine people have submitted their names for consideration by a committee who will recommend who the governor eventually picks.

Orphaned Cubs Released
Those two bear cubs that were orphaned after their mother was killed to be checked for rabies after attacking a marathon runner in the Valles Calderas earlier this year have been released back into another wilderness area after months of care by a wildlife veterinarian.


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