UNM Hospital Community Engagement Team Helps Local Groups Prepare for Winter

UNM Hospital Community Engagement department provides winter supplies to local organizations who support homeless community members.

The first cool days of fall signal a season of change, but for many in New Mexico they also signal a season of uncertainty and danger. 

“It is especially a time of hardship for people who are living on the streets and who are experiencing homelessness,” said Sara Lucero, MPH, development director with Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless. “We have to protect people against the elements as we go into these colder months. Unfortunately, exposure is one of the leading causes of deaths among homeless populations.” 

That is why Lucero joined more than 20 other community partners in distributing life-saving resources this fall and winter, provided by The University of New Mexico Hospital Community Engagement department. Department Liaison Sally Acosta said they purchased 7,000 emergency blankets this year, then hosted an event to get those blankets into helpful hands across the metro.   

“The issue of homelessness is definitely on the rise,” Acosta said. “Not only in the nation, but certainly here in Albuquerque. 

The community engagement team gave 500 of the portable, heat-reflecting wraps to Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless to hand out to vulnerable community members. Lucero said collaborating with the hospital is an important step to addressing a fast-growing problem.  

“All of us are just one bad day away from homelessness, and it can happen to anybody, especially as the cost of living and housing prices continue to increase,” she said. 

Azka Naru, PharmD, MPH, is the manager of the city of Albuquerque’s Gateway Center, which currently has 50 beds for women seeking shelter and will soon offer hundreds more to men and women in need. She also picked up hundreds of blankets to distribute to vulnerable populations in the coming weeks and months. 

“It is really important for us to know each other and identify our stakeholders and people who are really out there to help,” Naru said. “UNM has been on top of this from the very beginning, as part of the homeless initiatives that have been a part of the city.” 

Other UNM Hospital departments that handed out blankets and other resources to local partners include the emergency department, the stroke department, patient financial services and the volunteer doula team. Acosta said it is important to make face-to-face connections among groups who are all working toward a common goal, and provide information about the great services UNM Hospital offers. 

“UNM Hospital takes our responsibility to care for the community to heart,” Acosta said. “It is not something that should be overlooked.” 


Sally Acosta
UNM Hospital takes our responsibility to care for the community to heart. It is not something that should be overlooked.
Sally Acosta, The University of New Mexico Hospital Community Engagement Liaison

Ways to Help 

There are plenty of ways community members can support one another through these colder months. Acosta said those who have the means may donate to APS McKinney Vento or Albuquerque Healthcare for the Homeless. 

She encourages those in need of assistance to contact Albuquerque Community Support. 

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