Recover password

‘We couldn’t survive without Joy Junction’

Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal

Things went south very quickly for musician Joshua McNiel, 33, of Oklahoma City, who moved his wife and two young children to Albuquerque in mid-February while he worked on the music for a documentary about a Native American author.

“We loaded up our house into a U-Haul truck, moved into an extended-stay motel on East Central Avenue and placed the contents of our home in a self-storage rental unit,” he said.

Unfortunately, the film project got bogged down, and McNiel won’t get paid until it’s completed.

A Joy Junction family copes with homelessness. From left: Megan Tsoodle, Jacoby Tsoodle, 3, Nathan Tsoodle, 9, and Joshua McNiel. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

A Joy Junction family copes with homelessness. From left: Megan Tsoodle, Jacoby Tsoodle, 3, Nathan Tsoodle, 9, and Joshua McNiel. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

By May, the family, which includes wife Megan Tsoodle, 25, and their sons Nathan Tsoodle, 9, and Jacoby Tsoodle, 3, were living at Joy Junction, a Christian-based ministry and the state’s largest homeless shelter, which in July observes its 30th anniversary.

Advertisement

Continue reading

For Joy Junction’s chief executive officer Jeremy Reynalds, this family’s story underscores why the South Valley shelter he founded three decades ago remains relevant.

McNiel took side work in Albuquerque painting buildings, but that work eventually dried up and the family’s savings ran out. The self-storage company sold off the contents of the family’s locker, and the family had to vacate their motel room.

“I did a Google search on the words ‘family, Christian and shelter,’ and Joy Junction popped up,” McNiel said. “I called and they came out and got us from the motel. We’d never been homeless before. I was scared and had feelings of inadequacy in having let my family down.”

The playground area at Joy Junction provides exercise and fun for children whose families are experiencing homelessness. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

The playground area at Joy Junction provides exercise and fun for children whose families are experiencing homelessness. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

The family now has its own room with a bathroom and serves as a sort of dormitory monitor for other families. Their two children are enjoying the summer on the Joy Junction playground, making friends and participating in supervised activities with other children who are staying at the shelter.

Tsoodle enrolled in the shelter’s nine-month Christ in Power Program, which teaches life and employment skills. She also does volunteer work processing in-kind donations to Joy Junction.

McNiel is enrolled in the Hand Up Program, which offers help in résumé writing, job searches, appointment scheduling and applying for food stamps, permanent housing, Social Security or other services, as needed.

Joy Junction also has showers, provides clothing, pastoral counseling and uses a “Bible-based approach,” focusing on a person’s physical, emotional and spiritual needs to help them overcome addictions and other destructive behaviors, Reynalds explained.

Advertisement

Continue reading

“It was hard on me to bring my family here, but we had no choice,” McNiel said. “It’s tough out there, and you can quickly get behind and dig yourself into a hole that you can’t get out of. If it wasn’t for Joy Junction, I don’t know where we’d be or what we would have done.”

Ending homelessness

Joy Junction is the realization of a vision Jeremy Reynalds had to understand the problems that feed into homelessness and attempt solutions.

Raised in Bournemouth, England, Reynalds attended a Bible college and, in 1978, 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, two years later, he decided to move to Santa Fe, hoping to get a job as a corrections officer and start a Christian prison ministry. That never happened.

“It was a poorly conceived idea,” he said. “I’m really not corrections officer material.”

Instead, Reynalds opened His Place, a Christian coffee shop in a storefront on Agua Fria Street in Santa Fe, which offered free coffee and burritos to homeless people.

“The need was so great that, in four years, I was able to take only four days off,” he said. “I got burned out.”

Learning that the old vacant chapel at Kirtland Air Force Base had been made available to a nonprofit organization that worked with the homeless – part of a Department of Defense initiative to help communities – Reynalds offered to assist and moved his family to Albuquerque in 1986. He didn’t remain there long.

Joy Junction is born

A former South Valley Catholic boarding school that had most recently 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.

At the time – and it’s still the case – the few local shelters that existed were not configured to accept entire families. Men and boys went to one; women, girls and very young children went to another.

“My aim was to provide a safe place where an entire family could stay together during one of the worst times in their lives,” he said.

Reynalds refused to apply for government funding and relied solely on private donations, a practice he maintains to this day as assurance that the shelter can be operated as a Christian ministry. After a while, Reynalds was not only able to pay rent, but was also able to arrange financing to purchase the site in 1998. Joy Junction now owns the property free and clear.

Located on 52 acres off Second Street, south of Rio Bravo Boulevard, Joy Junction was originally able to accommodate about 60 people. Then, in 1990, two donated former Bureau of Indian Affairs barracks expanded the capacity to 190. In 2002, the second story from a dismantled motel in White Rock was donated and now serves as a transitional living center for up to 50 people.

Residents of Joy Junction enjoy the breeze on the grounds of the shelter after an evening meal. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

Residents of Joy Junction enjoy the breeze on the grounds of the shelter after an evening meal. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

Today, Joy Junction can provide shelter for up to 300 people on any given night. It also provides 16,000 meals each month, a combination of breakfast, lunch and dinner, and meals handed out from its Lifeline of Hope food truck.

Since 2007, when records were computerized, more than 18,200 people have sought shelter and services at Joy Junction. The shelter’s annual budget, which includes in-kind gifts, is $4.5 million. Only 4 percent of its budget goes toward administration and salaries.

Danny Whatley, executive director of The Rock at Noon Day, an Albuquerque day shelter and meal site for the homeless, said there are only about 550 bed spaces available for the homeless in the metro area. That’s not nearly enough to accommodate the homeless population, estimated from a low of 800 to more than 4,000, depending on who is asked, the definition of “homeless” and the method of counting.

“We couldn’t survive without Joy Junction,” Whatley said. “All the missions do a great job, but none of them takes families, except the overnight shelter in the old West Side jail that’s open during the winter. Joy Junction is the one place in Bernalillo County where the family unit can be maintained and where a man can retain a semblance of dignity knowing he can take care of his family, keep them safe and keep them together.”

Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless does twice-a-week outreach at Joy Junction with a pediatrician and a behavior health specialist, said Anita Cordova, the organization’s director of development and planning.

“Joy Junction is our largest family and children’s shelter, and that’s an important niche in the community,” she said.

The homeless not only experience poverty, “but they lack the most basic of resources,” she said, including medical and mental health care.

“A subset of the people we serve at Joy Junction would not get to us any other way, so this is one of the only opportunities we have to get integrated care to these families and children who are experiencing homelessness.”

Personal transformation

While the shelter has evolved over time, so has Reynalds. For years, he declined to take donations from gay or lesbian organizations and individuals, and did not allow same-sex couples to stay at the shelter.

He underwent a personal transformation while studying for his doctorate in intercultural education. He now accepts donations from people and organizations, regardless of their sexual orientation or agenda, and welcomes same-sex couples who need shelter.

“I’m much less judgmental than I used to be and that’s made me a much happier person,” he said. “My mantra for the last eight or nine years is ‘Let God do the judging, and I will do the loving.’ ”

couldn’t

survive

without

Junction

ABQ’s largest family and children’s shelter has been helping the homeless for 30 years

Joy

We

Please suggest a hedline:

‘We couldn’t survive without Joy Junction’

and a deck:

ABQ’s largest family and children’s shelter has been helping the homeless for 30 years

TOP |