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Joy Junction growing to meet growing need

With recent national attention on our city’s efforts to reduce homelessness and panhandling in the last couple of years, it’s curious why the total number of homeless individuals doesn’t go down. If anything, according to whom you ask and which statistics you believe, it keeps increasing.

In addition, we’re reminded of the sometimes deadly effects of homelessness and mental illness in the James Boyd case as the trial continues for the two former police officers charged in his death.

The case raises questions about what we as a community might have been able to do to prevent a man from seeking shelter on a mountainside. Does Albuquerque have the necessary resources to keep this situation from happening to another man, woman or even an entire family?

Having been homeless during some of the roughest times in my life, I do my best to think of potential solutions from the perspective of the homeless themselves, rather than from an ideology of “it’s not my problem,” or “the government should be responsible for taking care of homeless individuals.”

The mindset of wanting to do something myself instead of waiting for someone else to do it was, in part, what moved me to create a different type of homeless shelter in our community – one for the entire family – where no one is turned away, no matter the time of day or situation.

This means that when a family of four comes through the door, we take them all in, regardless of gender, age, race, sexual orientation or religion.

Over the past 30 years, Joy Junction has grown to serve more than 10,000 meals each month, not including the more than 6,000 meals served by our mobile feeding unit called The Lifeline of Hope.

This service was started in 2009 to provide food, beverages and hygiene products to those who have shelter but very little else, and to individuals who for a variety of reasons live on the streets, where their “pillow” is often a concrete sidewalk.

In addition, recognizing that overnights are some of the most need-saturated times of the day, Joy Junction staff drive vans through the streets of Albuquerque between about 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. in search of anyone who might need assistance with food, water and when available, a blanket or sleeping bag.

At Joy Junction, we’ve made it our mission to not only provide basic needs like food and shelter but also emotional and spiritual assistance so individuals can get back on their feet.

In addition, guests at Joy Junction are welcome to stay as long as they need, so they can become “whole” again.

Because of the increased need we see in Albuquerque, Joy Junction is working on obtaining funding to complete construction of an on-site apartment complex. Continued and increased community support is vital for the success of this project.

Modular units which will form the basis of this exciting project are already at Joy Junction. We just need the funding to see them turned into something which will house the homeless in dignity.

Because we are a donations-only charitable organization, we receive no federal, state or local funding. It’s what we’ve always done, and we plan to continue that way.

While it’s sometimes challenging, with government funding for homelessness sometimes changing on a bureaucratic whim, we still think it’s the best way to go.

“It takes a village,” not only to raise a child but also to lift an individual from their worst days. At Joy Junction, we’ll continue to do our part every single day and ask that you help in any way you can, especially as the colder weather nears.

We hope everyone will continue to rise to the challenge, and help us end homelessness and hunger, one life and one meal at a time.