By Jeremy Reynalds, Ph.D.
Founder and CEO
Joy Junction Inc.
With ongoing national attention of our city’s ongoing efforts to reduce homelessness and panhandling, it’s curious why the total number of homeless individuals doesn’t go down. If anything, according to who you ask and which statistics you believe, it keeps increasing.
In addition, we’re reminded of the sometimes deadly effects of homelessness and mental illness in the nationally infamous James Boyd case after two police officers were charged in his death in a trial which ended in a hung jury.
The case raises questions about what we as a community might have been able to do to prevent a man from seeking shelter on a mountainside. Does Albuquerque have the necessary resources to keep this situation from happening to another man, woman or even an entire family?
Having been homeless during some of the roughest times in my life, I do my best to think of potential solutions from the perspective of the homeless themselves, rather than from an ideology of “it’s not my problem,” or “the government should be responsible for taking care of homeless individuals.”
The mindset of wanting to do something myself instead of waiting for someone else to do it, was in part, what moved me to create a different type of homeless shelter in our community – one for the entire family — where (not withstanding space limitations), no one is turned away, no matter the time of day or situation.
This means that when a family of four comes through the door, we take them all in, regardless of gender, age, race, sexual orientation or religion.
Over the past 30-plus years, Joy Junction has grown to serve more than 10,000 meals each month, not including the more than 6,000 meals served by our mobile feeding unit called The Lifeline of Hope.
This service was started in 2009 to provide food, beverages and hygiene products to those who have shelter but very little else, and to individuals who for a variety of reasons live on the streets, where their “pillow” is often a concrete sidewalk.
In addition, recognizing that overnights are some of the most need-saturated times of the day, Joy Junction staff drive a van through the streets of Albuquerque between about 1 and 5 a.m. in search of anyone who might need assistance with food, water and when available, a blanket or sleeping bag.
Those small acts of kindness do make a difference, as some have showed.
At Joy Junction, we’ve made it our mission to not only provide basic needs like food and shelter, but also emotional and spiritual assistance so individuals can get back on their feet. In addition, guests at Joy Junction are welcome to stay as long as they need, so they can become “whole” again.
Because of the increased need we see in Albuquerque, at the time of writing Joy Junction is working on the last stages of obtaining funding to complete construction of an on-site apartment complex. Continued and increased community support is vital for the success of this project. Modular units which will form the basis of this exciting project are already at Joy Junction. We just need the financial resources to see them turned into something which will house the homeless in dignity.
Because we are a donations-only charitable organization, we receive no federal, state or local funding. It’s what we’ve always done. While it’s sometimes challenging, it’s the best way, with government funding for homelessness sometimes changing on a bureaucratic whim.
“It takes a village,” not only to raise a child, but also to lift an individual from their worst days. Success in assisting society’s most vulnerable, though, means that some homeless advocates and the homeless, along with area resident and business owners won’t always get exactly what they want. There’ll need to be some give and take, and a whole lot of respectful communication from both sides.
Never have we seen so clearly before how divided we are as a country. We’re an angry city, state and nation. That ugly political rancor needs to go. How do comments like this help anyone-or the cause you are trying to propagate? Look at this (edited). “(Trump) is an evil little sh*t! He’s not even looking after the 200,000 people of California who are facing a disaster… he’s one twisted mother f#%$er!” ”While it is definitely this person’s right to say what she wants, how is it helpful? What does it do to alleviate the problem? All this rancor does is to stir up people who are angry already.
Another post full of verbal slop read (in caps, which is considered rude when posting on line) when describing Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s net worth, ”Investigate everyone of these suddenly rich treasonous traitor fu**s.” It seems that this guy got really stirred up. But step back and think a moment. What good did it do? The writer was commenting in a public group called “The Deplorables”.
Then pontificating about Leslie Jones from Saturday Night Live on his Facebook page, controversial hate speaker Milo Yiannopoulos who creates trouble wherever he goes and was at UNM recently commented, “I’m conflicted about this because as awful a human being as she is, this is a black Trump which is of course the most sexually exciting proposition imaginable.” This is a really constructive piece of dialogue contributing toward the national debate, right? Not!
While the diatribe continues, at Joy Junction, we’ll continue to do our part every single day and ask that you help in any way you can, especially as the colder weather is here.
We hope everyone will continue to rise to the challenge and help us end homelessness and hunger, one life and one meal at a time.