Joy Junction looks like a great program! I just read this blog and thought I would share it.
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By Jeremy Reynalds, Ph.D.
Founder and CEO
It’s hard enough being homeless. When you’re robbed of the possessions you do have and the few dollars you might get for a day’s labor, that just adds insult to injury. Sadly, we’re hearing reports that’s happening.
When our staff first heard about these incidents, we assumed that it was random street violence. But then we heard these attacks were apparently being carried out by non homeless individuals driving, in some cases, reasonably nice vehicles.
With that in mind, I asked Lisa Woodward, our transportation manager, to investigate. Lisa drives second shift and a couple of graveyards for us and has an “ear to the ground” about what’s occurring on the streets. Lisa began what she dubbed a “week long information scavenger hunt.”
Lisa said, “I have lived among and worked with the homeless population for almost eight years, and have seen the homeless and myself been treated with disdain, disrespect and cruelty. However I never saw that we would be targets in what boils down to a hate crime.”
Lisa explained what she meant. She said she started digging a bit into these crimes, which apparently happen quite frequently on the streets of downtown Albuquerque.
Lisa said everyone she spoke with who had been a victim made a comment that the perpetrator said something like, “You’re homeless anyway; not like you have to pay rent with this money.”
Lisa said, “This made my heart skip and I walked back to the van, feeling rage I hadn’t felt in years.”
Lisa said she continued on her route, and something kept pulling her to go see “Chapo.” Lisa said something about Chapo draws her to him. She said he’s lived on the streets for close to 30 years.
Lisa said she is unsure of his exact age, but she would guess him to be in his late 80′s. “He is a gentle and calm spirit who cannot function in mainstream society. He asks for little and to those that live around him, he gives all.”
Lisa made her way into the alley where Chapo has his pop up house, and tapped on the side. She said Chapo appeared and invited her in. To her surprise, he was eating a hamburger. She looked at the meal he was appearing to relish.
Lisa said, “He caught my glance and smiled back, explaining that sometimes the restaurant nearby would let him sweep the parking lot for a meal. I asked him if I could ask a few questions while he ate. He said, ‘Of course, Miss Lisa. Why is your heart heavy tonight, child?’”
Lisa said she asked Chapo if he had heard of these crimes, if they were something new, and if he had ever been attacked. He said he had heard of them, but he had not been a victim. He told Lisa he was the “wrong homeless class to be rolled by them.”
Lisa said, “My head cocked, and I said, ‘Chapo, homeless is homeless.’ He said, ‘No, child. Homeless is not homeless.”
Lisa said she gave Chapo a cigarette, and waited for him to continue. He told Lisa there are three “classes” of homeless people.
“There are the homeless that you and Joy Junction primarily serve,” Chapo said. “They have fallen on hard times, have abuse problems, or are ‘system homeless.’ Their parents never really stood on solid ground nor their parents before them, so they were never given the skills to keep a job, pay rent, car payments and do all the other things (necessary for) life.”
Chapo said there are also what he called “warrior” homeless. They’re in small time drug sales, drink a lot and are in and out of jail. Some, he said, are gang members. They want to stay under law enforcement radar.
Then, there are “street homeless.” Chapo said, “That is me, Miss Lisa. Now don’t get me wrong. I have been known to have whisky to help keep this old body warm and will say here and now I will use it again, but only when available.”
He smiled and continued. “Lisa, my people don’t come out in the day, and at night we are vapors, the shadow you thought you might have seen. I don’t panhandle and I don’t steal. I sweep here for food and there for smokes. I receive social security, and a little from the veterans. It pays for my medication and propane for my stove. I walk to Tingley Beach, and fish when I get hungry for my mama’s fish and chips. My class of homeless does not exist.”
Chapo told Lisa the homeless served by Joy Junction are hated by those individuals just getting by.
He said, “These ‘rolls’ are hate crimes. The people who function everyday through a shelter are tagged by those who just hocked their car title to pay the rent or buy food. They know (your) homeless will be fed, pay nothing to sleep warm and take a hot shower. Miss Lisa, they feel (your) homeless have more, and it is given to them.”
Lisa said the sky had begun to brighten as she looked at Chapo with tears in her eyes.
She said, “I told him he did exist, and was a very special soul. I handed him the rest of my pack of cigarettes and hugged him, promising I would see him soon.”
As the sun came up, Lisa drove back to Joy Junction, her mind teeming with what she had heard.
Lisa said, “The misconceptions about the homeless have always (bothered) me, but I had not felt anger like this since I encountered a man at a convenience store who recognized me from Joy Junction and asked how I could sleep with a bunch of dirty bums.”
Lisa added, “I implore those who see us downtown or anywhere, flying a sign or sitting on the corner waiting for the day to go by. Before you judge us, come to Joy Junction and take a tour. See what our reality is.”
She continued, “No, we don’t have to pay … but the lights will come on at 6:00am and there is NO snooze button to hit for just 15 more minutes. There is no stretching and wandering to the kitchen for a cup of coffee in your robe. With their daily struggles, many see no hope. Suffering a vicious attack can be the final indignity.”
As the mainstream media say in some of their reports, some of the facts contained in this story have not been independently verified. But that notwithstanding, the charges are horrible enough to merit an investigation. Until (or if) that happens, please pray much for our city’s homeless.