By Jeremy Reynalds, Ph.D.
Founder and CEO
Joy Junction Inc.
While perhaps unwillingly, residents of Albuquerque’s Tent City have gotten the homeless (and their cause) a lot of publicity in the last few weeks.
Much of the press has focused on the negativity surrounding the embattled encampment. While the ultimate solution for Tent City is still up for debate, what’s certain is that there are no easy answers.
But while media understandably focus on this issue (because conflict and the unusual are what sell newspapers and draw viewers to the news), lost in the shuffle are all the homeless people who are quietly making great strides daily toward getting back on their feet again.
So while we as a community collaborate to find answers for the homeless who for whatever reason don’t choose, or are unable, to make use of area shelters and services, let’s not forget those individuals who have already achieved, or making strides toward finding, a new and productive life.
Marcos Atwood, now a Joy Junction resident services supervisor, was one of those people. He recently shared with members of Joy Junction’s Christ in Power Life Recovery Program how God changed his life.
Marcos was formerly addicted to cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana and alcohol. He’s been clean since 2006, and for some time now quietly and unassumingly helping Joy Junction life recovery program participants work through some of the issues they face.
After sharing his story with a life recovery class recently, Marcos said that while some participants had known a little about his addiction, others were shocked.
He said, “After class, they (told me they feel now) that I am able to relate to what they are going through.”
Linus Carver is a former addict who went through our program at Joy Junction. He is now a driver for us. Part of his duties are picking up large donations, like furniture.
While going about his duties recently, a donor’s neighbor came and talked with him. This woman told Linus that she and her children had been homeless at one time and stayed at Joy Junction.
This individual is now doing well, and wanted to know if she could make a donation to Joy Junction.
Linus said, “I told that of course she could. She brought out a box of children’s books and gave it to me with a blessing for ‘Everyone at JJ,’ and went back into her home.”
Diana Peterson-Lane is our volunteer coordinator at Joy Junction. But at one point, her life was very different when she was on and off the streets. Diana said that after a number of years a friend brought her to Joy Junction, where she worked through our life recovery program.
She said that while in the program, “My needs were finally met, spiritually, medically and emotionally.”
After her graduation, Diana was hired by Joy Junction, where each day by working with our volunteers she plays her part in helping the homeless guests who are able get back on their feet again.
Diana loves to make people smile (both guests and volunteers), and that’s especially important for guests as they walk the often difficult road to recovery.
Much of Joy Junction Chef Thomas Mares’ work is done “behind the scenes.” However, its impact and importance are apparent, as Thomas is responsible for the production of more than 16,000 meals each month. That’s a lot of food!
As our Joy Junction guests work each day to get back on their feet and overcome the issues that have derailed their lives, good meals are an important part of that recipe.
Thomas said, “ I am proud to serve good, balanced, and quality meals … They are important to (our guests) … and for the children, success in their education.”
He added, “I believe I help our children by preparing a balanced breakfast before they go to school. Seeing a smile on their faces every morning is priceless.”
Joy Junction Resident Services Manager Denis Billy works daily with our guests on all the behind the scenes issues that crop up during recovery.
Denis said he regularly meets with current and potential life recovery program participants. He said that in these meetings he discusses program details and responsibilities.
He added, “These times have also turned into a counseling session. New participants usually have issues that they need to discuss during these meetings, so I’ll take the time to listen.”
I don’t minimize the fact that there’s still much remaining work to be done in Albuquerque to help ensure that all of our homeless community have the access they need to programs from which they can benefit. However, as I said before, let’s not forget the work that has already been done and is still quietly carried out daily-far away from the glare of media headlines.
To learn more about Joy Junction visit www.joyjunction.org