Jeremy Reynalds, the man who founded Joy Junction, the largest homeless shelter in the state of New Mexico died recently. More than half of his life had been given over to a single mission, and a single message”
“I care for the poor and the homeless, you should too.”
In our present Age of Extreme Inequality, more and more Americans are living at the economic bottom; a kind of 4-H Club of hunger, homelessness, helplessness and hopelessness.
It’s a club no one wants to join, but once you’ve been captured by the life of lacks and indignities, it’s hard to escape.
Liberating people from this descent into despair often starts by simply finding them a home. Once they have shelter, it’s easier to get them food. And the more responsibility they can be given for managing and sustaining their home, the sooner they can become capable of responsibility for the parts of their lives beyond mere survival.
In Albuquerque, by far the biggest city in the state, there is the biggest concentration of homeless people, estimated at between 1400 to 2000, and some of the biggest, most ambitious plans to house as many of them as possible, for a short-term and longer.
They include a $4 million supportive housing project to built by the city and surrounding Bernalillo County for homeless people suffering from behavioral health issues. The project would provide 40 to 60 residential units with on-site services including case management, medical and behavioral health services, employment and assistance with benefits.
The city and county are also planning to build a village of 25 to 35 tiny portable homes, offered for nominal rent, for single people and couples, but with no children. These will be people identified as already on “a path to self-sufficiency.”
Then, there the proposal from the Greater Albuquerque Business Alliance, a new group representing 30 Downtown businesses, to build another campus of apartments on the edge of town near the county jail, with on-site housing and social services.
And a long-time provider of services to the homeless, St. Martin’s HopeWorks is planning a new 42-unit permanent housing site Downtown.
The city of Albuquerque has set aside just over a million dollars in Federal money to provide 50 to 80 rental-assistance vouchers for up to two years who find housing on the open market.
The big city has not only generated the most plans, it’s homelessness problem gets the most media attention.
In the smaller cities and villages and rural areas of Northern New Mexico, it’s easier for such problems to go unnoticed and un-funded. But that’s about the change. The Federal government recently awarded $3.37 million to attack a growing problem in an underpopulated area bigger than Denmark, homelessness among young people.
Hank Hughes has been the Executive Director of the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness for the past 17 years. For 12 years before that, 1989 to 2001, he was the director of the Saint Elizabeth’s Shelter in Santa Fe, NM.