Social worker Frances Fuller asks the Socorro City Council to help address youth homelessness. Fuller believes the city needs a youth shelter.
Cathy Cook| El Defensor Chieftain


The city of Socorro has a serious youth homelessness problem, according to Frances Fuller, a social worker with the Socorro Consolidated School District.

Fuller came before the Socorro City Council last week, asking them for help addressing the issue. She believes the city urgently needs a youth shelter but finding an entity to take on that liability has been a challenge.

“We do not have anywhere for a homeless 16-year-old to safely sleep,” said Fuller.

At the start of the school year, Fuller saw almost 60 students who are considered homeless, more than she’d ever seen before. The federal government’s definition of homeless includes living in a hotel and living doubled up with another family, like sleeping on someone’s couch.

“Students who are living doubled up have the same educational outcomes as students who are living on the street. They’re sheltered. We’re not necessarily worried about if they have heat tonight, in all cases,” she told the council. “However, are they going to graduate high school? Their educational outcomes are very poor.”

The school district cannot take on the liability of placing kids or a family in a hotel, said Fuller, and if the district did find funding for hotel vouchers, unaccompanied minors are usually not able to stay at hotels, again due to liability issues.

“These children are leaving Socorro and I think that’s sad,” said Fuller.

Two weeks into school, the number of homeless students went down to 36. The other students transferred out of the district because there was nowhere for them to go in Socorro, she said.

There are youth shelters in Albuquerque that could serve as a model. Many existing youth shelters are funded by CYFD and run by nonprofits, she said. Positive Outcomes might be willing to help but cannot take on a youth shelter on their own, said Fuller. SCOPE has talked about trying to fund a position to help oversee a shelter or funding hotel vouchers, but also has not been able to work around the lack of a facility and the issue of liability, said SCOPE coordinator Samantha Winter.

Fuller said she needs assistance from the city funding a shelter and assistance finding or creating a facility.

The councilors and mayor asked for a copy of an existing grant application for a youth shelter that had been rejected and committed to advocating for funding and helping Fuller search for long term solutions.

In a separate matter, a decision on whether or not to allow a mobile home park on Cuba Street has been delayed. The council determined they should get a recommendation from the Planning and Zoning Committee, as outlined in city ordinances, before deciding whether or not to grant the special use permit required.

The hiccup is that four of the seven Planning and Zoning Committee members quit during the pandemic and need to be replaced before the committee can make any recommendations. So, the city council will have to appoint new members to the committee. The committee will then discuss the request, take input from the developer and the neighbors, and make a recommendation to the city council, who will make the ultimate decision on the permit.

The developer would like to put 38 mobile homes on a little more than four and a half acres. His adopted father attempted to do the same thing a decade ago, but the neighbors objected to it and the necessary permit was never approved. Neighbors filled at least two rows of seats at the council meeting, prepared to voice their concerns, but did not speak after the issue was sent on to Planning and Zoning.

The next Council meeting will be 6 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 7 at City Hall.

Cathy Cook, Editor, El Defensor Chieftain