Posts Tagged ‘street outreach’
Founder and CEO
Joy Junction Inc.
It was Sunday evening and I was in my office. Monitors for the security cameras strategically placed around our main building at Joy Junction showed me everything was well.
I believe in multitasking. My left eye was looking at the security camera monitors, while my right eye was on my computer screen and my fingers were typing away on the keyboard. My mind was thinking about everything to be accomplished during the upcoming week.
After feeding hundreds Sunday, I saw that the kitchen had closed up for the night. However, some of the sack lunches they’d prepared would be on the van with us when we started street outreach at 9 p.m.
As my left eye kept looking at the monitors, I saw a Joy Junction resident services supervisor in her office talking to guests and program participants who were coming in and out of her office.
The limited number of single men we take in were all on their mats in their assigned area, looking forward to a safe and restful night’s sleep away from the perils and terrors of the street. They would wake up to a good breakfast and coffee.
I saw that our multi purpose building was filled with a sea of families settling down for the night. They were safe and dry.
I saw that as usual, a program participant was manning the guard shack as part of his life recovery volunteer program duties, making sure no one unauthorized entered our shelter complex.
I left my office and went outside, where the ground was wet from the earlier rain shower. I drove to our Downtown parking lot to meet Lisa Woodward, our transportation manager. It was time for street outreach, where the only thing certain for those who would sleep on the streets Sunday night was uncertainty.
We made our way to the northern part of Downtown. It was still spitting with rain, and while we were nice and cosy in the van it wasn’t an evening to be outside.
We arrived at our first location. There was no one there, so we moved onto the next spot. Riding along with Lisa and I were volunteers Jackamoe Buzzell and Tom Garrity. We arrived at our destination and found five people trying to stay dry.
One guy was sleeping very close to the street. I told him it was potentially a very dangerous spot. He said it was better than being close to the building where he was getting soaked from rain running off the roof. He did admit, though, that drivers of cars passing by threw firecrackers at him. How awful!
We drove into the heart of Downtown Albuquerque. With the Railrunner train passing close by and the rain beginning to ease up, we fed and gave beverages to 13 people sleeping under the highway overpass.
One guy grabbed my hand and said, “Thanks. You guys came to the rescue again.”
We drove along a packed Central Avenue, where we heard music blaring from souped up cars with their windows down and bikes revving their engine. In front of us was a car which had three television screens in the back. I couldn’t help thinking how ironic it was that here we were seeking out the homeless and hungry, and in front of us was a luxury car with all this expensive media.
We checked out an alley frequented by the homeless. No one was there. The next couple of locations were just as quiet.
We drove down some more alleys. They were deserted, but I wanted our volunteers to see where a number of homeless people camped out in the colder winter months. That’s because the narrow alleys provided protection from the chilling winter winds.
We made our way east to another highway overpass where homeless people have camped out in months gone by. Ironically, we were behind a well known restaurant. We all got out of the van, but no one was there either.
We made our way back Downtown to our first formerly deserted location where we fed and gave water to six newly arrived grateful souls. They were very happy.
By now it was 11.50 p.m. We found a couple of people sleeping, or half-sleeping, in a very public area. We gave a sack lunch and beverage to one, and left the same for the other individual who was sleeping.
Just as we were about to call it a night, a guy ran up to us. He said that he and three friends could use some food and water. We walked over to their location, where we found the three huddled in a doorway charging their cell phones! We gave them sack lunches and a beverage and walked back to our parking lot, where we ended the outreach and went to our respective homes.
Tired? Yes! However, we were all happy that we had, I believe, in the space of a few hours made at least a little bit of difference in the lives of those with whom we had come into contact. That was my evening. How was yours?
Would you please pray for Joy Junction and our various outreaches? You may donate online or find out more by going to www.joyjunction.org
It had been a rough day physically. I just didn’t feel good, but I figured one surefire way to feel better was to take my mind off how I felt and focus on the needs of others whom we would encounter that evening on Joy Junction’s regular street outreach.
On the way to Downtown Albuquerque, I stopped off at a convenience store to get Pepto Bismol. My stomach was doing a dance. Maybe two small orders of fried clams earlier on in the day (comfort food for me) hadn’t been the best choice! They had been delicious, though.
It was 79 degrees as I pulled into our Downtown parking lot just before 9 p.m. and met up with Lisa Woodward, our transportation manager. The van was loaded with sack lunches and water.
We drove off. At our first location we found a number of people, including one man who exhibited many of the characteristics of mental illness. We gave him and a handful of other people beverages and sack lunches and drove south a bit.
We arrived at our next stop, where we found seven men again unable to find shelter for the night. One man had made a makeshift bed out of a plastic garbage bag he found on the street. Another guy put our empty soup box under his head, while someone else used an old jacket for a blanket.
No one else out there had covers or mats. They propped themselves against the wall and gazed at us plaintively.
Some slept with their shoes under their head. There was a good reason for that, Lisa (formerly homeless) told me. It was a theft prevention measure. If the shoes were of the slip on variety, she said, sleepers wouldn’t wake up if someone pulled them off while they were sleeping.
As we drove on Lisa reflected, “Downtown Albuquerque on the weekend. Nothing but trouble!”
We made our way to an abandoned building where we’d spotted an inebriated pair sleeping a couple of nights before. No one was there and no signs of their earlier presence remained. We stopped to get coffee.
We moved onto the heart of Downtown Albuquerque and fed about a half dozen people. One guy admitted he was homeless but said he didn’t need a place to stay, because he had a place to camp. He looked very scared and not typically homeless. Lisa described him as “a victim waiting to happen.” That reminded me how I would feel if I suddenly became homeless again (I was homeless in the early 1980′s). We talked about trying to find him again to see if we could help, but weren’t able to do so.
We drove over to the Fourth Street “Mall”, apparently now designated as a park, where “begging or soliciting is prohibited.” However, it was a pretty quiet night and no one was around. We moved on.
We made our way down a crazily busy Central Avenue, where partygoers were out in force. I wondered why any adults – others than those wanting to cause trouble – would want to go down there. It was loud, scary and somewhere from where I wanted to escape as soon as possible.
We stopped at a park and gave a number of lunches to grateful people (for whom the park would be home that night). One of them was hitching to Missouri, where he said there was work. He’d eaten little all day and was grateful for the food and encouragement.
As a couple of individuals passed by, Lisa encouraged me to return back quickly to the van. She identified them as a couple of drug dealers, well known in that area of town, with whom we had no wish to have an encounter.
We made our way back to some of our earlier spots. A few more people had gathered and the refrain was, “We’re thirsty!” We gave a variety of beverages and sack lunches and moved on. It was getting close to call it a night.
While heading back to our parking lot we saw a young woman carrying a baby. I asked her if she was okay. She said she was. I had doubts, but there wasn’t much I could do. I breathed a quick prayer for the two of them, and a couple of minutes later we arrived. It was 11.45 and 77 degrees.
Lisa departed to check on a shelter driver and I headed back home. With the excitement of the evening’s outreach over, my stomach ache began to return. Apparently, there’s a stomach bug making the rounds. Oh well, I thought, as I cranked up the country music, this too shall pass.
After a long day officially kicking off our Joy Junction expansion campaign Together We Can, it was time to do a little nighttime street outreach.
Driving was our transportation manager Lisa Woodward, and accompanying us was volunteer Erika Ferraro and videographer Howard Holley from KAZQ TV 32. He was filming the outreach as part of our new infomercial which airs twice weekly on his station.
It was just after midnight when we started driving. We soon spotted a couple of guys resting. We introduced ourselves and gave them sack lunches, waters, hand wipes and first aid kits. Both were so appreciative. One said he was newly homeless.
We continued driving through downtown. As we arrived at 2nd and Central, the streets were busy, the music loud and the bars hopping. We drove by and went south to the Albuquerque Rescue Mission, where there were a few people propped up against the wall or lying down outside.
We gave supplies to everyone. If they weren’t awake, we placed a bottle of water and a sack lunch close to them.
Just as we were about to leave, an older man carrying a backpack came up to us and asked if we were full for the night. I told him we were at capacity for single males, but had food and water. His eyes lit up. He told us he had only been homeless for the week and would spend the night walking. We prayed with him and he walked on.
An APD officer drove by. I expected him to stop and tell the homeless to move on, but happily, he drove on.
We moved on to the Amtrak station where a couple of souls were sleeping bundled up. We didn’t want to wake them up so we left food and water and drove on. One of them had a wheelchair close by, and the other had a shopping cart full of “treasures.” I breathed a silent prayer, while wondering what lay in store for them during the rest of the night and the upcoming day.
We were running low on supplies. Lisa contacted Joy Junction so we could replenish our stock. While waiting for a driver to come, we took a short break in our parking lot in the heart of downtown.
Supplies arrived and we continued on. Still in downtown, we spotted a woman sleeping on a bench. We left her a sack lunch and water. We were now in an area frequented by drug users. Lisa suspected that our soundly sleeping client was a drug user as, she said, no one sleeps that soundly on the streets. We continued on.
We decided to veer off the downtown route, and head over to an area under a highway overpass. We’d found a small number of people “living” there in the past. We didn’t find anyone, but did see an old and possibly abandoned camp site. As we stood there, traffic roared over us. I wondered how anyone managed to sleep.
We started back toward downtown and rechecked a previous stop. We found a regular client and his friend outside a building. We gave them food, water and blankets. They were so appreciative.
A woman came over while we were there. We also gave her supplies. Due to some previous issues, she was ineligible to stay at Joy Junction. I hope she slept well. We drove on.
Just about to call it a night we were flagged down by a woman looking for a place to stay. We managed to squeeze her in. Two-thirty in the morning was no place to be wandering the streets of Albuquerque.
A couple of blocks over we saw flashing lights and police talking to revelers. We passed by quickly, but I wondered if the night would end a lot differently than it had begun for the revelers. Was a trip to jail in their immediate future? At that time of day, it seemed the only people on the streets are partygoers or the homeless.
We drove down an alleyway by the Mission and gave a bottle of water to a man sleeping there.
By this time we were all beginning to yawn, and the consensus was it was about to time to call it a night and head home. As we headed back to our respective vehicles, I reflected how fortunate I was to have a home to which I could return. Everyone whom we’d been helping the last few hours didn’t have that choice to make. The streets were their home.