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Services evolve to address homeless population

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Nonprofit organizations that provide services to the homeless in Albuquerque are mostly concentrated between First and Third streets, along a three-mile corridor from the Barelas neighborhood south of Downtown, then north through Wells Park and most recently stretching into the Near North Valley neighborhood, just south of Menaul.

To understand how those neighborhoods got swept up in the tsunami of homeless people trekking back and forth daily along the corridor, it helps to understand the evolution of the service providers who are dedicated to helping them.

⋄  The Barelas neighborhood was the first to feel the impact of having homeless people take up residence on its streets, due to the generosity of two service organizations: the Good Shepherd Refuge, now called the Good Shepherd Center at 218 Iron SW; and the Albuquerque Rescue Mission, now called Steelbridge, located at 525 Second SW.

The Good Shepherd was founded in 1951 by Brother Mathias Barrett. It provided meals and limited overnight emergency beds for homeless people. It continues to do this with a daily meal at 3:15 p.m. that attracts between 200 and 300 people, says Brother Gerard Sullivan.

The center also has 35 beds for overnight shelter and 35 beds for people enrolled in an in-house, six-month substance abuse rehabilitation program.

“When the Good Shepherd Refuge was founded, most of the people it served were poor and homeless, though some suffered from alcoholism,” he says. “There wasn’t much resistance from the neighbors, who felt a charitable obligation to help the poor.”

That began to change in the 1970s and 1980s as more homeless people began showing up with various addictions, accompanied by the criminal activity and often violent behavior that surrounds street drugs, Sullivan says.

⋄  The Albuquerque Rescue Mission, founded in 1954, had a similar goal – to minister to the poor and homeless, and to provide overnight shelter, food and clothing.

At its peak, the Albuquerque Rescue Mission served 37,000 meals a month to homeless people. In August 2015, the mission shut down its mass feeding program and subsequently rebranded itself as Steelbridge Ministries.

In January 2017, it opened a Resource Center on Second Street, just north of Interstate 40 and just south of The Rock at NoonDay, in the Near North Valley neighborhood. The Resource Center serves as a day shelter for women, provides clothing for women and men, family food boxes for a week at a time, and offers classes for homeless women looking to transition back into society through employment and training, and housing search assistance.

Clients from Steelbridge Ministries now go to The Rock at NoonDay for meals in an arrangement between the two organizations.

Steelbridge’s campus in Barelas continues to offer an in-house residential rehabilitation program that can accommodate 72 men and 26 women for up to two years.

⋄  The Rock at NoonDay was founded in 1982 as Noon Day Ministries. It operated out of a building behind the First Baptist Church at Central and Broadway on the eastern fringes of Downtown. In December 2014, it changed its name and moved to its new location at 2400 Second NW.

The Rock at NoonDay feeds breakfast, lunch and dinner to from 800 to 1,000 people daily. An emergency day shelter, it also provides showers, laundry, clothing, phones, and mail pick-up services. It also works with other agencies to furnish legal aid, identification card assistance, housing assistance and more.

⋄  HopeWorks, formerly St. Martin’s Hospitality Center, at 1201 Third NW, in the Wells Park neighborhood, was founded in 1985. Last year, HopeWorks served a combined 170,000 breakfasts, lunches and dinners. In addition, it offers clothing, storage, a mail service, showers, rental assistance programs, behavioral health screenings, social service referrals, treatment programs, and programs to help clients find daily employment and more permanent jobs.

⋄  Health Care for the Homeless, also founded in 1985, originally operated from different Downtown locations before moving to its current site at 1217 First NW, in the Wells Park neighborhood. It provides an array of health care services, including primary medical care, psychiatric services, eye care, dermatology, podiatry, dental care, psychiatric services and behavioral health assessments and therapies.

⋄  Joy Junction, founded in 1986, is the state’s largest homeless shelter. It is located at 4500 Second SW, in a primarily industrial section of the South Valley. About five miles south of Steelbridge’s Barelas location, it is far off the beaten corridor.

Each night, Joy Junction shelters up to 300 people, including entire families, and each month provides more than 16,000 meals. The shelter also provides showers, clothing, pastoral counseling and programs to help people break the cycle of homelessness.

Unlike the other shelters in Albuquerque, Joy Junction has since its inception rejected government funding and relied solely on private donations, allowing the facility to operate as a faith-based ministry.