ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently issued its 2008 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, a national study that explores changes in homelessness nationwide.
HUD’s assessment concludes that while overall homelessness in America held fairly steady from 2007 to 2008, the number of homeless families, particularly those living in suburban and rural areas, increased (www.hud.gov/news/release.cfm?content=pr09-108.cfm)
Joy Junction Founder and CEO Dr. Jeremy Reynalds said overall demand for the ministry’s services has increased-not just for shelter by homeless families.
“Joy Junction’s numbers are constantly high,” he said. “Our capacity is about 300–and that is what we typically run, both during the summer and winter. That is, however, an increase of about 100 percent over five or so years ago when we used to accommodate about 150 people nightly. However, unless resources increase I foresee some sort of disaster happening sooner rather than later.”
Joy Junction recognizes the need to expand, and some of those initial plans can be seen in the document “A Call to Action,” available at www.joyjunction.org/aboutus.asp
Reynalds said, “In addition to families, we also provide late night shelter for a limited number of single men who have nowhere else to go. We are routinely turning away between five to 20 of these individuals on a nightly basis. I have no idea where they go-but the prospect is scary. I believe the actual need is way higher than those numbers.
A Joy Junction staff member recently asked some overnight shelter residents staying at Joy Junction where they would have gone if Joy Junction had been full.
There were a variety of responses. One person said he’d be walking the streets all night too afraid to go to sleep. Another said along a ditch, while someone else he would sleep “in my spot” by St. Martin’s Hospitality Center.
Someone else said he would be under the bridge by the river on Rio Bravo, while another said he would be in “my old spot under the overpass on I 25.”
Others said they would opt for a local emergency room or an area close to the train tracks.
Someone else said he didn’t have “the foggiest idea.”
Reynalds said the responses worried him, as most of the sleeping areas mentioned are potentially dangerous.
He added, “I don’t think that many Albuquerqueans have any idea about the increasing number of people who are asking us for a safe place to stay away from the dangerous city streets. I just hate turning people away.”
Reynalds said, “I pray that ultimately we will somehow be able to help all of those precious people who are asking for our assistance. I don’t believe that the people we have to turn away are in any way representative of the huge need out there. The word spreads quickly on the streets that we’re full, and people stop calling.”
Reynalds continued, “Sadly, when we have warm weather like we’re experiencing now, many people don’t think about the needs of the homeless. However, warm weather can be just as dangerous as cold, because it can lead to dehydration and even death. Perhaps someone put there has a building in an appropriately zoned area that we could use free for a few months.”
Joy Junction receptionist, dispatcher and former client Harold Eansor hates having to tell callers that the shelter is full, because he knows that there are usually no other options.
He said, “We do our best to utilize all usable space, but when there is no more space, there is no more space.”
He added, “Those poor souls left on the streets will always be in my prayers and the prayers of Joy Junction.”