Could gift cards ease the problems of the homeless?

July 29, 2014

Prepaid Credit Cards

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When police are called to help with a disruptive or unruly homeless person, there are only a few places an officer can take the person.

You can either take them to the hospital, if they meet that criteria, or they end up, unfortunately, incarcerated, Officer Matt Tinney told Action 7 News.

Now, police have a new tool.

Tinney co-founded the nonprofit, Crisis Intervention Team, Inc. with psychiatrist Dr. Nils Rosenbaum.

The two recently launched Helping Hands.

The program works by giving prepaid credit cards are to Albuquerque Police supervisors, who can then use the cards to help a homeless person in crisis. The credit cards can allow officers to help the homeless by checking them into a hotel room for the night, or helping them get food or medicine.

Certain programs in the city provide hotel vouchers, but they are only available during daytime hours, Tinney said.

We can provide you with a room and board for one night, and that way officers can follow up and send off your information to follow-up services through APD or other nonprofit organizations in the community, he said.

The program also hands out Walmart gift cards to as many APD officers and Bernalillo County Deputies as possible.

The cards are loaded with $10 — money that can be used to buy bread or peanut butter, or what Tinney said most homeless people request: new socks.

Tinney is trained in crisis intervention, and believes the offer of a few bucks, or the promise of a night in a warm bed, can help keep tense situations from boiling over.

Because if we can stop the crisis then we can prevent the tragedies down the line, he said.

Plus, he believes this program speaks to the core values of what police do.

Officers, in general, go into law enforcement to help people, he said.

If youre interested in donating, learn more about the program at