Albuquerque, NM — On July 12, 2017 local bakery Golden Crown Panaderia was broken into, two thieves caught on camera lifting a handful of cash and two bottles of vanilla syrup.
The owner, Chris Morales wants to reach out a helping hand. In his own research, he now wants to focus on fixing issues that lead to crime in Albuquerque, starting with homelessness.
“These kids were homeless,” Morales said. “They’re utilizing homeless services. One of the kids I know just had a baby. He has a Facebook page. So we know, we see them and what’s going on and kind of researching into their story.”
The decline of services available to those living in the streets makes people desperate, overwhelming an understaffed Albuquerque Police Department Morales said.
After working with officers and conducting his own research Morales has begun to reach out to organization Heading Home to help those affected by homelessness.
The Break In
“Two people were doing look out, one guy kind of went through the bakery and then he went outside and grabbed one of the guys that was on the lookout — and they came in with a backpack,” Morales said, recounting the footage captured of the incident at the bakery.
“They started taking all the money from all the drawers looking throughout the whole place and then they finally left out through the back door,” he said.
Editor’s note: Surveillance video provided by the Golden Crown Panaderia / edited for length by Jazzy Sama and Nichole Harwood
The Golden Crown Panaderia has video surveillance. Morales said the individuals targeted only one of the outside cameras.
“They were able to reach it and they broke it,” he said. “We have a lot of cameras outside as well, so we got clear videos of their faces, their tattoos, what they look like.”
After the initial break-in report was filed by APD there was no follow-up from detectives, Morales said.
‘“We gave them finger prints, we gave them video surveillance, we posted on social media we got tips on where these individuals are living,” he said. “We know where they hang out at and there has been no follow-up or follow through with it.”
One of Morales’s concern is if one of his bakers showed up in the morning and someone was robbing the place, he said.
“That is very concerning,” Morales said. “Luckily that didn’t happen.”
Understanding the Bigger Problem
Morales has added more security — including more cameras, since the incident. However, Morales feels that beefed up security cannot deter desperate people.
“The people have lost hope in a way or lost opportunity to be able to figure out how to better themselves in life and so they’re taking the easy way, or quote-on-quote ‘easy way’ in life to make ends meet,” he said.
Aside from the concerns for his employees safety Morales would like to focus on the problem with the current conditions of many in the city that lead to desperate acts such as breaking into businesses.
“There’s an amazing program called Heading Home basically what they do it’s a completely encompassing program to help get people off the streets,” Morales said. “That gets them connected with having jobs, that gets them counselors. If they have any medical problems they see doctors and the medicine that they need.”
Morales believes the problem of homelessness is systemic and must be addressed as a society, he said.
While the public sees panhandlers they don’t see others who are impacted by homelessness, Morales said.
“They don’t see that mother and son who are beginning to become homeless or that family whose hidden between [it] public view because they’re not asking for help and they don’t know where to turn,” he said.
Morales encourages citizens to give money to a company like Heading Home as a opposed to panhandlers, he said.
“It’s less us relying on the government to be able to do this, it’s the public saying we don’t stand for this no more. We don’t want this anymore,” Morales said. “Let’s put our money to good use.”
Morales promotes giving to nonprofits organizations for the public to address homelessness.
“So we can give people hope. So people can understand this type of stuff and that’s really what needs to happen,” Morales said. “We need to stop relying on government to be able to solve these problems when we can solve these problems ourselves.”
Benito Aragon, Communications Director for Heading Home, said the organization is a New Mexico non-profit that runs several housing-first initiatives. These programs seek to make experiences of homelessness rare, short-lived and non-recurring.
“Our long-term goal is to increase capacity for the housing-first channels that our programs offer to make even bigger inroads to ending homelessness in New Mexico,” Aragon said. “Our short-term goals revolve around engaging stakeholders in the public, private and nonprofit sector to make them aware of a solution that is proven to work within our community and collaborate in overlapping areas to increase efficiency.”
Heading Home currently works with service partners, the business community and local businesses in a variety of ways within their programs, he said.
“We know engagement with the community is key in fighting an issue that affects us all,” Aragon said. “Our businesses often have excellent input and a perspective informed by daily interaction with community members in dire need.”
The City of Albuquerque approved a $1,550,000 budget for the program in the current 2018 fiscal year.
The City of Albuquerque commissioned a 2016 cost study which shows amazing cost savings for taxpayers within Albuquerque Heading Home initiative, Aragon said.
“Heading Home’s success in helping those most in need in our community is only possible with the investment of the community,” Aragon said. “We offer a full range of investment opportunities from volunteering, to donating goods and services, to monetary pledges.”
Business owner Chris Morales believes in their message.
“Homelessness does happen, but if there’s no way to get people back on their feet it’s a permanent thing,” Morales said. “It doesn’t have to stay that way.”
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