By Jeremy Reynalds, Ph.D.

Founder and CEO

Joy Junction

A homeless encampment in Downtown Albuquerque is drawing concern.

Starting with tents, but now with just blankets on the sidewalk, it appears to be primarily individuals gathering after about 9 p.m. daily to “crash” for the night.

A piece aired by KOB TV 4 on the issue drew this response from mayor’s chief of staff Gilbert Montoya.

“What we do provide and the services, they’re not handouts, where you can just go in and continue this lifestyle with free room and board. You have to actually change your lifestyle and work toward what you want to overcome.”

Writing on Facebook, Jackie wasn’t impressed.

“Mayor Berry’s solution every time.. Give them a week to find a job, that no one will hire (them for) because they have no identification, address (and some have records and mental illness) overcome their addiction in one week, find a place to live with no job to pay for it and if they don’t, then he makes the city throw away the little belongings that these people have.”

There’s also concern about the homeless gathering at the New Kimo Park near I-40 and San Mateo in Albuquerque.

It’s filled with trash, shopping carts and drug paraphernalia. One local news affiliate said it also provides a haven for the homeless.

A property owner behind the park is at the end of his wits, telling KOB TV, “I think closing down the park permanently would be great. But on a temporary basis at least for a year or so, fence it off, get it cleaned up (and) get this area cleaned up a little.”

I have sympathy for the property owner and his tenants. It’s not a good position to be in. However, the solution apparently being proposed is to kick the proverbial can down the road. These folk will go somewhere, but the question is where?
The ultimate answer may be outside the ability of City Hall to solve. One thing for sure: NIMBY, or not in my back yard, is not a solution.

When I posted the KOB piece about the Downtown camp on Joy Junction’s Facebook page, and my own personal profile, I asked for comments. A number of people responded. Most were very kind and thoughtful, but there were also a number of unbelievably cruel and callous ones.

Here’s an example. Clifford said, “What about Darwinism? The antithesis to organized religion? Shouldn’t they just die? Their genes eradicated? Now I know that is extreme and I know I don’t want people to suffer, but … ”

Brad commented, “So scripturally speaking, all of Solomon’s wisdom about idle hands is just gibberish? If you are able bodied, it is YOUR responsibility to provide for yourself and those entrusted to you. And that doesn’t mean panhandling and begging or mooching off of others good will.”

Dan’s post was shocking. He said, “I’m a very strong believer of only helping those who are willing to help themselves. It’s all about who and what we choose to serve. Either a higher or a lower vibrational frequency. What Joy Junction is doing is good charity work, but it’s not the highest level of work because you are helping out so many who don’t even care about helping themselves.”

He continued, “Because if they don’t value life this time around, then they will be given the opportunity once again in their next lifetimes. It’s just not guaranteed (the homeless) will come back as humans, and will more than likely come back as worms or cockroaches since that is the appetites they are choosing to serve this lifetime around.”

Here are some more encouraging (and reasonable) responses.

Samee said if we want to see a decrease in the homeless population, then we must change healthcare policies and provide long term inpatient mental health services. “A huge portion of these people are simply unable to care for themselves.”

Joanna said desperate people needing help can’t be left out on the streets.

Gina commented that many homeless people have mental health issues. Asking them to change is just not realistic, given everything else with which they have to contend.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson quite shockingly said that poverty is a state of mind.

“You take somebody that has the right mindset, you can take everything from them and put them on the street, and I guarantee in a little while they’ll be right back up there. And you take somebody with the wrong mindset, you can give them everything in the world, they’ll work their way right back down to the bottom.”

And back on Facebook, Connie had a more reasonable answer. She said, “Some people will always need help. We cannot leave those people. It could be me.”

So will you be a person who keep kicking the homeless can down the road, or someone who wants to make a lasting difference? We would love to hear from you if you fall into the latter group.

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