By Jeremy Reynalds, Ph.D.
Founder and CEO
Joy Junction Inc.
Here’s a shocking statistic. In 2016 the estimated average life expectancy in the U.S. is 79 years old and a 2014 article pointed out that the normal life expectancy in the U.S. in 2014 for a homeless person was 64 years old. That’s a 15 year difference.
Did you know that Albuquerque’s poverty level is ranked the fifth highest in the nation? A 2014 Albuquerque Journal article said a report ranked New Mexico as one of the worst states in the nation for child homelessness.
Now, while you may have heard talk about the number of homeless decreasing, or that we are on the way to “ending homelessness,” that depends which survey you believe, or whom you talk to.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which oversees the administration of government funded programs for the homeless (and mainly through volunteers does an much referenced yearly one night count of the homeless), does not consider “couch surfers,” or people staying in (usually) low rent and often squalid motels, to be homeless. It’s probably no surprise to you (because their reasoning is dubious at best), but they are.
Perhaps because you see so many people in need, you have become overwhelmed and feel either that because of the enormity of the problem you can’t help, or if those in such apparent need really tried, then they could improve their situation. But usually that’s not true.
Did you know that many homeless people feel sad, alone, hopeless and dismissed by much of society?
You can make a difference. Here’s a thought. How do you feel when someone makes eye contact with you? You probably feel more valued, like you’re being paid attention to, or like you exist, right?
Can you imagine if that never happened, time and time again and wherever you went that people turned away from you? After a while you’d probably begin to feel painfully different and emotionally inadequate, and perhaps internalize those feelings.
To minimize or escape the pain, you may turn to or increase your use of alcohol and drugs. The spiraling descent would probably get worse and worse. While not all homeless people are substance abusers, there are quite a sizeable number.
So how can you impact their lives? Here’s one way. Just give a simple smile and make eye contact to someone in need whom you encounter. It could give them hope and ultimately save their life.
Now in Albuquerque, like many cities nationwide, while we have many caring residents, a number of people suffer from NIMBY (not in my back yard).
While I understand that a number of homeless people behave in ways that are not “socially acceptable,” and make us feel uncomfortable, we can’t stop there and expect someone else to do something. As a beginning, in a non judgmental way, let’s think about the many possibilities why people are homeless. Then have a discussion with family, friends and neighbors about how you can help. One way is through Joy Junction.
Ways You Can Help the Homeless through Joy Junction
Volunteering your time is a great way to assist Joy Junction in our decades old mission of helping the homeless and hungry. The time you spend with us is invaluable and appreciated. We couldn’t do what we do without your support.
You can serve a meal, interact with our many young guests by reading to them, do arts and crafts, playing games and so much more. We also welcome ideas.
You can also do something specifically with our adult guests-both male and female. A game of basketball is always welcome Our women would love to learn a new hobby you may love and be good at.
If you belong to a dance troupe, a band, or maybe you know sleight of hand, we invite you to entertain our guests with your talents!
We’re on a sizeable but aging property in the South Valley. There are constantly things in need of repair or a cheery face lift. You and your friends or colleagues are always welcome to come out help in this way.
You can start a food drive, or any other kind of drive to benefit Joy Junction. We feed about 10,000 meals a month at the shelter and about 6,000 more meals from our Lifeline of Hope. With those numbers, food is definitely something we’re always in need of.
We accept donations of all kinds. We can always use clothing of all sizes for men, women, boys, and girls. Also appreciated are household items, coats, socks, and even cars. Donations are accepted at 4500 2nd St. SW, seven days a week from 8am to 8pm.
Monetary donations are always needed, as Joy Junction does not accept any government funding. You can text your donation to 505-288-3350 or make a secure donation online here.
Last but not least, mail a check to P.O. Box 26568, Albuquerque, N.M. 87125.
Albuquerque is a wonderful and caring community, whose generosity keeps Joy Junction and other ministries alive through its generosity. I so appreciate that, as do our hundreds of guests. My wife Elma and I hope to see you at Joy Junction during the holiday season, or somewhere in the community at one of the many events we attend.