Farmington police seeking to battle homelessness

FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — Farmington police are getting involved in tackling the city's homeless problem.

The Farmington Daily Times reports (http://bit.ly/VBAHFf) officers with the department's District Coordinator Unit surveyed the area's homeless and street inebriate population in January as part of the department's new outreach efforts. Police say they wanted to get more information to find out what programs were needed.

Police officers were able to get 50 people to take the surveys and estimate that the homeless population ranges from 90 to 100 people on any given winter day. During warmer months, Farmington police say that number likely doubles.

Police said they found that more cooperation and coordination between law enforcement and homeless-assistance charities and agencies in the community is necessary to better help the area's most chronically homeless and destitute.

Estimates show that the survey reached about 70 percent of the current homeless population, according to a report provided to the Daily Times.

Sixty-four percent of those surveyed consider themselves homeless. Of that 64 percent, 46 percent cited a lost job or home as the reason, 34 cited family issues, 15 percent cited mental or physical issues, 6 percent cited alcohol addiction and 6 percent cited other reasons.

Although the number of homeless citing alcoholism was low, 56 percent said they had attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

Homeless respondents were asked if they would be willing to enroll in a long-term treatment program for work, housing or substance abuse. Forty-seven percent stated they would enroll in a work program, 65 percent said they would enroll in a housing program and 31 percent said they would participate in a long-term, substance-abuse program.

Jarvis Yazzie, 55, sat inside San Juan Catholic Charities' Good Shepherd Center on Wednesday enjoying warmth and company before heading back out into the cold.

"We try to survive," Yazzie said. "For me, I go through a lot of depression. This place, Catholic Charities, gives me hope."

In addition, 44 percent stated in the police survey they had already attended a short-term substance abuse program 28 to 60 days long. However, 64 percent of those who had previously attended a short-term program still considered themselves an alcoholic, and 57 percent stated the program was successful.

"We're not all alcoholics," Yazzie said. "We're still respectable people. We have our views about a lot of things."

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Information from: The Daily Times, http://www.daily-times.com

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