Las Cruces City Council to consider expansion of day labor program for unhoused

·4 min read

LAS CRUCES - The Las Cruces City Council will consider a measure to expand a day labor program for unhoused and housing insecure residents at a meeting July 5.

The council's regular meeting will be held on Tuesday because of the July 4 holiday.

The Mano Y Mano Day Labor program is operated by the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope, a local nonprofit which provides services to unhoused and housing insecure residents. The program provides temporary employment for those same city residents along with connections and referrals to social services. Day laborers assist with "landscape beautification, garbage removal, and other tasks on city property."

According to the city, Mano Y Mano started as a pilot program after a council resolution in 2018, beginning with one work van carrying up to 10 people and operating two days per week. The program has now expanded to include two vans carrying up to 20 people and operating five days per week. The expansions have been supported through city funding.

Mayor Pro Tempore Kasandra Gandara, who represents District 1 on the city council, said the Mano Y Mano program was somewhat her "brainchild" and said she helped put it together with MVCH from the council side.

On Tuesday, the council will take action on a resolution which would spend $93,000 to further expand the program.

"Due to the success of the program," the city states in a background document attached to the resolution, "MVCH and staff are proposing an additional truck and hot spot crew be incorporated into the program to address the need for mitigation and street outreach for people experiencing homelessness."

Nicole Martinez, Executive Director of Mesilla Valley Community Hope, speaks during a public safety forum at Las Cruces Home Builders Association Event Hall on Thursday, June 2, 2022.
Nicole Martinez, Executive Director of Mesilla Valley Community Hope, speaks during a public safety forum at Las Cruces Home Builders Association Event Hall on Thursday, June 2, 2022.

"It's been a really awesome program to run (and) be part of, but there's still a gap," MVCH Executive Director Nicole Martinez said. "So we really wanted to have something that allowed us to do more outreach that was tied to the health and safety of our city."

The new "Hot Spot truck" would be a Ford F250 that would be leased through the Las Cruces Fire Department, according to the city. The truck could carry five additional people and would operate five days a week.

With the Hot Spot program, residents would report places that need "immediate cleanup," Gandara said. The program would allow for immediate deployment to that space and will provide more "flexibility" than the other two van units, which operate on a preset, strict schedule.

Martinez said the Hot Spot unit will include a supervisor with lived experience with homelessness or housing insecurity, an outreach coordinator employed by the nonprofit and up to three laborers. The Hot Spot unit could deploy to a homeless encampment, Martinez said, allowing for cleanup and direct outreach to people living there who may be in need.

"My hope would be that we train them to act as a sort of streets unit that goes and helps, (that) not only does the pickup, but also works with the homeless, to speak to them, to engage, to build trust, (a) relationship with them," Gandara said. "To help them understand where there's resources in the community, and then we need to refer them to those resources."

If passed, the resolution would allow city staff and the city manager to amend the current agreement between the city and MVCH and would authorize a $93,000 budget adjustment for Fiscal Year 2023 to cover the cost of the program's expansion. The program's budget would increase to $505,000.

Kasandra Gandara, District 1 City Councilor, speaks during a public safety forum at Las Cruces Home Builders Association Event Hall on Thursday, June 2, 2022.
Kasandra Gandara, District 1 City Councilor, speaks during a public safety forum at Las Cruces Home Builders Association Event Hall on Thursday, June 2, 2022.

"I think that it will meet a need, a growing need, in the community," Martinez said. "I think that with the track record we've had thus far with the Mano Y Mano program, that Community of Hope is excited to expand the program and meet that need."

On Tuesday, the council will also consider a resolution to accept the city's Annual Internal Audit Plan for the 2023 fiscal year, a resolution to authorize a transfer of $15,000 in unused funds from the Juvenile Citation Program budget to the Juvenile Assessment Reporting Center budget and a resolution to approve an $80,000 contract with Advanced Communications and Electronics, Inc. for technical support services for emergency services radios.

The council meeting will be held in council chambers at City Hall, 700 N. Main Street at 1 p.m. July 5. It will also be broadcast live on Comcast cable channel 20 and in high definition on channel 298. It will be livestreamed on YouTube at YouTube.com/clctv20 and will be available at clctv.com.

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Michael McDevitt is a city and county government reporter for the Sun-News. He can be reached at 575-202-3205, mmcdevitt@lcsun-news.com or @MikeMcDTweets on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on Las Cruces Sun-News: Las Cruces City Council could expand day labor program for unhoused