Capability, Dignity, and Albuquerque’s San Mateo Inn

My city councilor, Tammy Fiebelkorn, gets it.

Here’s what she said about the city of Albuquerque’s purchase of an old motel in our neighborhood to use as transitional housing for young people (18 – 25) on the edge of homelessness:

The San Mateo Inn is across the street from a bus stop, a short drive from the University of New Mexico or Central New Mexico Community College, and adjacent to many businesses.

“It’s near a lot of different job opportunities, so they can actually be here and be getting job assistance,” Councilor Tammy Fiebelkorn said. The location is also in the middle of District 7, which Fiebelkorn represents.

“It’s also around a lot of fun things to do. I think it’s really important that when we’re putting together a shelter for unhoused people of any age, but particularly young people, we do it where they’re able to access fun. We want them to be part of our community,” she said.

We want them to be part of our community.

In his foundational work on the moral underpinnings of development economics, the Nobel laureate Amartya Sen (as much moral philosopher as economist) talks about the importance of “capability” – creating the opportunities for people to do and be that which they have reason to value.

Like bus lines, and access to jobs. That’s the kind of stuff Sen is talking about.

In her extension of Sen’s work, philosopher Martha Nussbaum anchors capability in fundamental human dignity. “We (should) do it where they’re able to access fun. We want them to be part of our community.” That’s what Sen and Nussbaum are talking about.

It’s not just about getting people off the street. It’s about their capabilities and dignity.


  1. In my day you either worked for someone else or you worked for yourself. Those that didn’t do either generally went into the Army. that was the path I chose until by best friend’s mother asked me what I was going to do. I said I was going into the Army. : Like Hell you are.” she shouted at me. She worked like heck to get me accepted to Clarkson, Rensselaer Polytechnic, and Stevens. Brown rejected me. The Army may have been OK also. But this was after WWII and Mary Hall’s husband was the priest for the 101st Airborne Paratroopers who had been in the lead plane over Normandy and was badly injured.

  2. Very smart to repurpose a building rather than build new. Big savings on GHG. Also near work, school and recreation reduces transportation GHG.

  3. Good for Albuquerque. Homelessness is such a problem! St. George, Utah, where I live (basically), has an organization to help homeless called SwitchPoint. They have what I consider a wonderful program for housing and helping homeless that includes counseling and more. They have purchased hotels to help house their clients and are helping other communities in Utah deal with this issue. Unlike so many areas that just feed the homeless, they are getting them back on their feet and helping to make them capable.

  4. It would help to provide an address for the San Mateo Inn rather than just saying it’s near whatever. Thank you.

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