By Mike Cook
Las Cruces Bulletin
LAS CRUCES – “I think we all agree that it’s all ‘us’ and ‘we’ and not ‘them’ or ‘they’ or ‘those people,’” Mesilla Valley Community of Hope (MVCH) development committee member Nancy McMillan said April 13 during MVCH’s annual spring open house.
MVCH, located at 999 W. Amador Ave., provides housing, childcare, an emergency food program, a soup kitchen, a health center and other services for homeless and indigent clients.
The program “always has a hand out to those who need a hand,” McMillan said.
“I’d like to begin with gratitude,” MVCH Executive Director Nicole Martinez said as she welcomed clients and volunteers, elected officials, supporters and visitors to the open house. The event, Martinez said, is held “to recognize not just the gift but also the giver. I extend our gratitude.”
“Our city is a leader in providing compassionate service to those who need it,” MVCH Board President Carrie Hamblen said.
“We have a great community here,” Mayor Ken Miyagishima said at the open house. “They love their city and they love helping.” Las Crucens “always remember the less fortunate,” Miyagishima said. “We’re all just one big community.”
Also attending the open house were Mayor Pro-Tem Gill Sorg and state Rep. Rodolpho “Rudy” Martinez, D-Grant, Sierra, Doña Ana.
Camp Hope has received national recognition, Martinez said, because it combines all services for the homeless on one campus and because it has the support of the city it serves.
The city council recently voted to double to 20 the number of MVCH clients it employs each week in the Mano y Mano day labor program, which assists city Parks and Recreation Department staff by cleaning and beautifying city parks and other city property.
MVCH will soon begin its fourth annual Tents to Rents program, which raises funds to move homeless clients into their own apartments. In its first year, Tents to Rents raised enough to move two people into apartments, said MVCH development committee member Nancy Barnes-Smith. It raised enough the second year to move four people, she said, and last year Tents to Rents collected more than $50,000 and moved eight people into their own homes.
Hamblen said the program has also raised “awareness and understanding about what homelessness is.”
“I want to thank everybody for helping me,” MVCH client Chris said. “I’ve been homeless for many years. I’ve come a long way. I’m just one of the lucky ones.”
“I got sick both mentally and physically on my way to success,” MVCH client Mark. After 44 years in retail in five states, he found himself homeless. With assistance from MVCH, Mark now has his own apartment and car and is receiving the medical help he needs and the disability payments he is entitled to.
“I’m on my way to retirement in a couple of weeks,” he said. “Now I really know what happiness is.”
Las Cruces “embraces the homeless and tries to help,” said MVCH client Jonathan, who has been homeless since 2015 and twice has been a Camp Hope resident. “I can’t express the amount of gratitude I have for this place.”
Martinez said MVCH provided services to 2,606 people last fiscal year and provided housing to 547, including 187 in MVCH’s Camp Hope Tent City. Currently, she said, Camp Hope has 37 residents.
Mike Cook may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.