ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Jeremy Reynalds, the founder and chief executive officer of Albuquerque’s Joy Junction, the state’s largest homeless shelter, died late Tuesday, surrounded by family, after a long battle with cancer. He was 60.
For decades, Reynalds served as a voice for the homeless and a public advocate on their behalf, authoring a number of books and scholarly articles on issues that affect this population.
Each night, Joy Junction shelters up to 300 people, including entire families, and each month provides more than 16,000 meals. The shelter, located in Albuquerque’s South Valley, also provides showers, clothing, pastoral counseling and programs to help people break the cycle of homelessness.
Since its inception, Reynalds has rejected government funding and relied solely on private donations, allowing him to operate Joy Junction as a Christian ministry. Its current budget is about $4 million.
Professional colleague and friend, Danny Whatley, who is executive director of The Rock at Noon Day, called Reynalds’ death “a tragedy for our entire community” and said Reynalds was far more concerned about homeless people than political correctness.
“Every mayor in office while Jeremy was at Joy Junction, I’m sure, dreaded hearing that Jeremy Reynalds was on the phone or in the office waiting to see them. He was not afraid to be confrontational. Jeremy was short and didn’t weigh much, but he had one of the biggest hearts. His focus was always on those less fortunate, the homeless and those who needed assistance,” Whatley said.
Another long-time friend, Brian Nixon, who also serves on Joy Junction’s board of directors, called Reynalds “a beautiful human being and completely unique.” Nixon said his friend “took Jesus seriously, loved God and he loved people – particularly less fortunate and homeless people.”
Reynalds often commented that he identified with the homeless because he was at one time among them.
Reynalds attended a Bible college in England, where he was from, and in 1978 he bought a one-way ticket to the United States. He was 20 years old, had $50 in his pocket and a burning desire to preach the Bible. He lived for a while in Florida, where he met his now ex-wife, started a family, volunteered in a Christian prison ministry and experienced homelessness.
The infamous 1980 New Mexico State Prison riot was still on Reynalds’ mind when he moved to Santa Fe, hoping to get a job as a corrections officer and start a Christian prison ministry. “It was a poorly conceived idea,” he later conceded. “I’m really not corrections officer material.”
He did, however, start a Christian coffee shop that handed out free coffee and burritos to homeless people.
In 1986, he moved to Albuquerque with his family to work with a nonprofit at an old chapel, where he provided pastoral services. He didn’t stay long. A former South Valley Catholic boarding school that later served as a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center had just closed, and the nonprofit that owned the property was eager for suggestions about what to do with it. Reynalds struck an agreement for free rent for a short time, while he established a shelter for homeless families.
That 52-acre property became the campus for Joy Junction. After a while, Reynalds was not only able to pay rent, but was also able to arrange financing to purchase the site in 1998. Since then, countless thousands of homeless people have been made to feel that they indeed had a home.
Reynalds’ wife, Elma Reynalds, Joy Junction’s chief administrative officer, has been named by the board of directors as the interim chief executive officer.
Late in his life, Reynalds returned to school, receiving his master’s degree in communication from the University of New Mexico, and then his Ph.D. in intercultural education from Biola University in California.
With his smooth British-tinged voice and his deliberate enunciation, Reynalds will also be remembered as a Sunday morning radio announcer on contemporary jazz radio station, The Oasis, at 103.7-FM.
In addition to his wife, Elma, Reynalds is survived by five sons and eight grandchildren. His family asks that contributions be made to Joy Junction.
A memorial service celebrating the life of Jeremy Reynalds will be held July 17, starting at 2 p.m., at Calvary Church, 4001 Osuna NE.