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Two local groups tackle root causes of homelessness

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Editor’s note: Today, the Journal continues its annual Help for the Holidays series, spotlighting areas in which community members can reach out to neighbors in need. The series concludes next Sunday.

The first time Queva Hubbard was incarcerated for drug-related charges, she served her year in prison, went back out onto the streets and before too long was arrested again on new drug charges. This time she was sentenced to three years.

The Albuquerque Opportunity Center operates a Men’s Overnight Emergency Shelter with 71 beds at 715 Candelaria NE. (SOURCE: Heading Home/AOC)

After release from prison the second time she found her way to Crossroads for Women, which operates two transitional housing units, one in Albuquerque and one in Los Lunas – both for women who have been incarcerated.

The New Mexico Department of Corrections funds the transitional housing units, where women remain while completing their parole or probation and learning life skills. These include such things as how to write a résumé and apply for jobs, as well as how to talk about their convictions; tips on enrolling in school; guidance in managing their money, creating a budget and getting out of debt; counseling for treatment of mental health and addiction issues and more.

“When you’re out and don’t have a support system, you’re pretty much just wandering and playing a guessing game,” said Hubbard, 35. “But at Crossroads you get support. They help you set minor goals and then major goals, and as you achieve these it builds confidence and you want to do more.”

Crossroads “saved my life by helping me reclaim my freedom,” said the single mother of two children. “Not just freedom from coming out from behind walls, but freedom of the mind.”

Hubbard now works as a case manager at the main Crossroads offices, 805 Tijeras NW, providing support to women who find themselves in the same position that Hubbard herself had been in.

Breaking the cycle

Crossroads for Women was founded in 1997 by a local civil rights attorney, Elizabeth Simpson, “who saw that women who came out of incarceration were stuck in a cycle,” said Dalilah Naranjo, Crossroad’s community engagement coordinator. “They were released with really nothing to their names and no familiarity with other lifestyles, other than the one they had been leading, and no place to go, except back to the streets, where they recidivate, start using again and re-trigger their trauma.”

With the help of case managers, the women in the transitional housing units can get the help they need before moving into Crossroads’ permanent supportive housing program, where they are placed in apartments or homes, and which are subsidized by funds from the county, said Clarissa Earl, Crossroad’s communications specialist.

Eventually they become more independent, find jobs and move into their own housing, “which creates openings for new people to enter the Crossroads program,” Earl said.

Last year, Crossroads for Women served 180 women.

Recently, the organization started a new program called Peer-On-Peer Support Services, for women who have completed Crossroads programs, but still need some support. Through the program, Naranjo said, “their connection with Crossroads doesn’t end, because we know that recovery is a lifelong journey.”

Shelter, respite

The Albuquerque Opportunity Center operates a Men’s Overnight Emergency Shelter, and a Respite Care Program on its campus at 715 Candelaria NE. The two programs, both for men, share an outdoor garden, computer lab, storage area, showers, laundry facilities, medical examination rooms, a library and a classroom area.

AOC spokesman Benito Aragon said there are 71 beds on the emergency shelter side, and 30 beds on the respite side.

The Respite Care Program clients stay on the campus for as long as required to heal and they are provided three meals a day.

It is specifically geared for homeless men recently released from a hospital. The program helps protect the fragile men who would otherwise be on the streets while trying to tend to open wounds and recover from illness, Aragon said.

“Our goal is to provide a place for individuals to get off the street, have a safe place to sleep, access showers and laundry, and provide secure storage for personal items and medication,” he said. “We also provide case management for people who want it, with housing being the end goal.”

The Albuquerque Opportunity Center, and the larger and more remote Westside Emergency Housing Center, which is open during the colder winter months, are both operated by Heading Home, a New Mexico nonprofit that provides emergency and permanent supportive housing services to people experiencing homelessness.

More than 800 individuals and family members have been placed in permanent supportive housing since the Heading Home initiative started in 2011. The AOC shelter has connected men to housing and resources since 2004 and annually serves more than 600 individuals. It has helped more than 1,900 men transition into housing, Aragon said.

The Westside Emergency Housing Center has overnight bed space for about 400 men, women and children. It is funded by the city of Albuquerque and generally allows anyone who is homeless and needing overnight shelter to have a bed.

The homeless people who stay at the Albuquerque Opportunity Center’s emergency shelter are typically people who have a plan for getting off the streets. They are often working or actively seeking work while saving for a security deposit to get into their own apartment, Aragon said.

Men who wish to stay at the AOC Overnight Emergency Shelter need to call the bed reservation line at 344-4340 starting at 8:30 a.m. each morning. Walk-ins are not permitted. Beds are provided as space becomes available, but once a person has a bed he can maintain it for 30 days, with options for extensions.

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