by Jeremy Reynalds, Ph.D.
Founder and CEO
Joy Junction Inc.
A new survey carried out for Joy Junction by NM Research and Polling, revealed that 54 percent of residents believe poor decision making and laziness are factors that contribute to homelessness.
That’s a potential problem in a city where we have an ever increasingly serious hunger and homelessness problem.
At its worst, this sort of thinking can result in disturbing comments like the one we just received.
I wondered how anyone could believe like this.
“Any person giving these drug addicted losers one dime must be held responsible for feeding their addiction and lifestyle. Bums do nothing, for anyone. No matter how many made up stories you can come up with about what great upstanding citizens they are. The mentally ill among them need to be forcefully committed to institutions, not allowed to roam the streets with feces hanging off their chin.”
How do you feel after reading this?
I read his comments in shock, awe and practical disbelief and later responded, “You sound like a pretty angry person in regards to the addicted/homeless. May I ask you (on the record) what caused you to feel like this? Did you have a negative experience with a homeless person? I am curious about what we would do with ‘the drug addicted losers’ if we were not to assist them in some way.”
I am still waiting (but not with baited breath) for his response.
Another unsolicited comment came on line a few hours before writing this.
It read, “I am so happy with the beautification efforts made by homeless panhandlers at our intersections and interstate off ramps. The empty water bottles, banana peels, and other discarded debris is a lovely accent to those areas. I also would like to thank those homeless folks who made a huge effort to beautify the park nearby with the lovely overturned shopping carts filled with cardboard, dirty clothing, empty liquor bottles along with a nice assortment of many other unusable items. Thank you homeless folks; thank you so much for your services. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
I replied, “It sounds like you have had some less than positive encounters with the homeless. What happened? … What should we do with, or how can we best help, panhandlers behaving in ways like those to which you refer?
‘While I appreciate your deft use of sarcasm, it isn’t going to help the problem. In fact, what would you say to someone who said the time you have spent composing this narrative could have been better spent fixing the issue?”
Meanwhile, I asked a few of our Joy Junction Facebook fans what they thought.
Three of those who responded were former shelter guests.
Jamie said that Joy Junction has helped her. And she has never been an addict, panhandled or stole.
She said she has a couple of questions for the guy talking about drug addicted losers.
“Have you never needed help? What do you do to help the community, or anyone? Have you ever been to Joy Junction or spoken to any one that they have helped or anyone that works there? Do you even know what JJ does?”
Glenda said she bettered her life. “After staying at Joy Junction I graduated 2015 from CNM … I got a hand up. not a hand out. Thank you.”
Laurie commented that she was appreciative of what she found with us.
“Joy Junction gave my grandson and I very much! We found God, a place to stay until we got on our feet, many new friends, and 24 hours of support, even many times at two or three or four a.m., whenever needed.”
She added, “If I needed advice or an open ear and heart, one or even three of JJ’s staff or friends there were always available to help. So when I can give a dollar to anyone who holds a sign for help, I give with a prayer for whatever their situation is, because I have been there.”
Robin dubbed his diatribe “sad and pathetic and no compassion.”
Carolyn said the comments seemed one step below eugenics to her.
Dawn commented, “The person who wrote this comment is a wonderful and shining example of someone who displays characteristics of a narcissistic sociopath. The utter lack of compassion is unreal.”
Jay said he has interacted with many homeless people, including the mentally ill – and it’s wrong to hate and not love.
He added, “Every person has different needs, and we can choose to ignore, or to show some love. I choose love. But for the grace of God, there go I.”
Marcos said the comments are really not nice, as God loves everyone no matter what our background.
“We all make mistakes, and sometimes continue on in our mess. Jesus loves us. We should be compassionate and love them likewise.”
Diana wondered if the guy had ever spent time with the homeless. She said that if he did, “He may realize that it’s a complex issue impacting people from all walks of life.”
Deborah said it seems that it’s socially acceptable these days to be insulting.
She added, “This person sure assumes a lot and makes blanket statements with no thought. I respectfully ask this person to call you, and have a sit down chat. Maybe he … needs to be educated and shown how their generalities are so incorrect. We all have a story and no two are exactly the same.”
Niki said, “We are a nation of many people that do not love outside our borders. How do we expect love within them? Fortunately, there are many others that open their hearts to the needs of humanity.”
Terrance correctly made the point that good people can become addicted to pain medication through no fault of their own. Some people have severe injuries, or pain meds are the prescription that ends up being not enough. That promulgates a situation where addiction sets in.”
Renee said, “Give them food, blankets, clothes, shoes, and show them Jesus’s love. You don’t know what’s going on in their life, so just give.”
John said, “Shame on that person. Karma will be a tragic force in his or her life. As to the poor, there but for the grace of God go I. One should never in good conscience turn away from another human being’s suffering.”
When asked in the poll about issues facing residents in the Albuquerque area, seventy percent of respondents felt homelessness is a problem, while 43 percent said it is a very serious problem.
The poll showed that, Hispanics, those with a household income less than $60,000, and residents living in the Valley/Downtown and Mid-Heights were more likely than others to feel homelessness is very serious in Albuquerque.
Wayne nailed it, writing “I had very mixed feelings about homeless and beggars on the street until I met you and read a few of your books. My eyes have been opened, and I’m a much more compassionate toward them now.”
In a previous story I wrote about a former male guest at Joy Junction, whose alcohol abuse and marijuana resulted in his getting fired from a job. Meth came later. He said that addiction made him think he was invincible.
He poignantly continued, “I remember one time when I was high. I was very well dressed, but there was no restroom around. I even looked for a bush, but found nothing. I had no choice but defecate in my pants. This caused me to get off of crack for a short time.”
But what was the turning point for the man who defecated in his pants? He said, “I remember that after I bagged the pants and threw them in a waste bin, my apartment manager found them and had them cleaned for me. What a great man! I’ll never forget his generosity. That kind of kindness caused me to change my life and try to find help.”
Maybe that’s a place at which a conversation could start. But the dialogue will need to be one embraced by the entire community. Sadly, at this point that looks like it could be a while from happening. What do you think?