FROM JEREMY REYNALDS AT JOY JUNCTION
In a revealing new survey carried out for Joy Junction by NM Research and Polling, when asked about issues facing residents in the Albuquerque area, seventy percent of respondents felt homelessness is a problem, while 43 percent feel it is a very serious problem.
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.
It is telling that residents felt homelessness is a bigger problem than the lack of good paying jobs and the quality of education.
Homelessness was second on the list behind crime, which 84 percent of those asked felt to be a problem, with 59 percent of respondents saying for them it’s a serious problem.
Attacking Albuquerque’s crime rate is also one of Mayor R.J. Berry’s legislative priorities, with the city saying, “Mayor Berry will support any legislation that will make New Mexico a worse place to be a criminal and supports several crime bills that will be under review this session … ”
Disturbingly, a Dec. 2016 report by U.S. News and World Report listed Albuquerque as the number one place for the highest rate of car theft in the U.S.
There was more bad news. According to the Albuquerque Police Dept., violent crime is at a 10 year high in the city.
Joy Junction Founder and CEO Dr. Jeremy Reynalds said he is happy that so many people realized the seriousness of crime and homelessness, but concerned about the misconceptions concerning the plight of the homeless.
While most residents do attribute drug and alcohol abuse and mental health issues as primary causes of homelessness, he said, there are those who believe the homeless are simply lazy or make poor decisions.
Reynalds added, “We will never make headway on the issue if we think in this way,” he said.
Despite these misconceptions, on the upside it was encouraging that most residents appeared to be sympathetic to the issue.
Some of the key survey observations were two thirds of residents disagreeing with the statement that it is hard to understand how anyone can become homeless. Residents were twice as likely to agree than disagree that most homeless people want to get a stable job (44 percent and 21 percent respectively). Residents were almost equally likely to agree (35 percent) than disagree (29 percent) that men are more likely than women to become homeless.
Although 44 percent disagreed that homeless people are more likely to commit crimes than other people, 30 percent believed the homeless commit more crimes.
Residents were twice as likely to disagree (40 percent) than agree (21 percent), that only a small percentage of homeless are families with children.
Interestingly, the U.S. Department of Education’s 2013 count of homeless children in the nation’s public schools found more than 1.2 million public school children are homeless- an historic high for our nation.
A 2014 report by the American Institutes for Research revealed that New Mexico was 46 out of 50 when each state was assigned a rank of one (best) to 50 (worst) based on a state composite score that reflected each state’s overall performance across these four domains: 1) Extent of Child Homelessness (adjusted for state population). 2) Child Well-Being. 3) Risk for Child Homelessness. 4) State Policy and Planning Efforts
On the downside, the survey results also showed that Albuquerque still has a lot of work to do when it comes to helping the homeless and hungry.
Reynalds said, “It’s important to remember that whatever the reason for their plight, the homeless are still people too and need to be treated with love, kindness, dignity and respect.
He continued, “Say someone was homeless because of so called ‘bad choices’ or not wanting to work. If we decide not to assist them, what is the end result? Sometimes ‘bumper sticker solutions’ are verbalized concerning the homeless, with people not thinking about the logical extension of what they have said. As a city, let’s think, communicate, take responsibility and act. It will help our community and could also save a life.”