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State’s Largest Homeless Shelter To Expand

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New Mexico’s largest emergency shelter, already at capacity every night, is set to expand.

The Albuquerque-based Joy Junction is scheduled to announce today plans for building a new dormitory, chapel and women’s center, according to officials with the shelter.

The move comes as Joy Junction founder and CEO Jeremy Reynalds said the homeless crisis in the state is the worst he’s seen in decades due to the economy.

“Every night, we have 100 or so people sleep on mats on the floor,” Reynalds said. “With this expansion, we will be able to give people struggling with homelessness more dignity.”

Officials said that each evening, the shelter is forced to turn away a dozen people or more because of a lack of space in a facility that can hold 300 people. On Facebook, Joy Junction gives daily updates on numbers turned away and asked followers to pray for them.

Under the expansion plans slated to be unveiled today, Joy Junction will build a vocational center aimed at training residents in auto mechanics, giving pedicures and basic computer literacy. The plan also calls for a new chapel to be erected so services could move out of a multipurpose center.

“We want to train people to leave here with transferable skills,” he said. “We also want them to get well spiritually so they can develop the confidence to get back on their feet.”

In New Mexico, which remains one of the poorest states in the nation, the poverty rate was 18.6 percent in 2010. That’s higher than the state’s pre-recession level of 14.0 percent in 2007.

The spike in need not only has increased demand for emergency shelter around New Mexico’s urban areas, but also affected donations, Reynalds said. Tough economic times have brought a decrease in donations.

Last year, Joy Junction provided more than 200,000 meals and about 120,000 nights of shelter to families.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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