By Jeremy Reynalds, Ph.D.
Founder and CEO
Joy Junction Inc.
We all have memories of our worst day. They range from a layoff, a burglary, the loss of a loved one, to perhaps the diagnosis of a potentially devastating disease.
Sometimes, that worst day is when an expected promotion fails to materialize, we can’t get the parking spot we want, or we get cut off in traffic by an angry driver.
Depending on who we are and what’s going on in our lives, “worst day” can have a variety of meanings.
But what is the worst day, or experience, for a homeless person? Sometimes it’s things we don’t even think about.
I asked Joy Junction Resident Services Manager Denis Billy to talk with some of our guests at Joy Junction and find out.
One guest told us it wasn’t so much a single experience as it was an ongoing nightmare wondering where she was going to sleep, or where her next meal would come from.
This woman said she wasn’t welcome in her family’s home because she was “out doing stupid stuff that I shouldn’t have been doing.”
She recalled her mom always telling her to “straighten up.”
She said that in addition to these worries, “I always worried about my husband’s medical and physical problems.”
She added, “I want to thank Joy Junction for putting a roof over our heads and for providing a place where we can eat hot food.”
Another woman said her worst experience was loss of her family, and self esteem.
She continued, “My last job was as a care giver for the elderly. After I lost that job, it was the worst thing that happened to me because it caused my homelessness. The family that I helped was like family to me. I was very proud of myself while I worked for them. I’m still recovering from that experience.”
One male guest said when his brother died, his mother “flipped out,” and he had to remove his family from the house.”
He recalled having to walk the Manzano Mountains at 4 a.m. “(The) youngest didn’t have any shoes so I had to carry him. We were six miles from Mountainair, with no public phones or open businesses.”
The man added, “After a couple of hours, when the sun came up, a man on his way to work in Belen stopped and gave us a ride. We were so thankful for that ride. This man told us about JJ, and then he dropped us off here. It was the best (thing) for us.”
One man said his worst experience as a homeless person was after moving to Minnesota. He recalled it being winter and having no place to stay.
“I would sleep under bridges freezing at night,” he said. “I was trying to find money for food and trying to stay warm. They only had one shelter there and it was really hard to get into. It would be full by the time I got there.”
He said even his attempts to get there early were fruitless, as the line was still very long.
The man added, “I (did) that for six months until I got the money to go back home. It was the worst time I had living there. I thank God that I never have to live like that ever again.”
One man said since being homeless, his worst experience is the fear of being harmed by someone near him.
He said, “I’ve had things stolen, my words taken out of context, and I’ve been targeted. But at the same time, these horrible experiences have been humbling and strengthening for me.”
He added, “Being around junkies, and having to look straight ahead and ignore is scary. Being followed by a man with a knife. All of these things have strengthened me beyond my wildest imagination.”
One woman said her worst experience as a homeless person was while waiting at an area convenience for the shelter van to take her to Joy Junction. Along with her was her grandmother and six backpacks. She said that during the wait, two police squad cars and a police SUV pulled up. They had been called by store workers.
Once individuals arrive at Joy Junction and decide to join our Christ in Power life recovery program, we encourage them to stay calm and find answers to their problems by a relationship with God rather than taking inappropriate “refuge” in illegal drugs or over consumption of alcohol.
How did you deal with your worst day?