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Homelessness: not just a New Mexico issue


Earlier this month, as is the custom, the governor signed approval on many capital outlay projects across the state.

Many of them are predictable infrastructure allotments, for roads, bridge improvements, public safety, utility upgrades and repairs to school buildings.

Another category found in multiple regions of the state are projects to assist the homeless.

In Las Cruces, $1.8 million will go toward warehouse construction on the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope campus, which serves the homeless. In Deming, $1 million will go toward a new domestic violence and homeless shelter.

It’s tragic that helping the homeless is as standard in our governing as making sure our tap water is safe. This is certainly not just a New Mexico issue. It’s a national, as well as international, issue.

In the past couple of years, the only big cities I’ve had the chance to visit are Albuquerque, El Paso, Juarez, Fort Worth, Houston, Los Angeles and Tulsa. In all of those cities, homeless people are readily noticeable. In L.A., I literally had to step over some homeless people sleeping on Hollywood Boulevard.

It’s a difficult feeling to process.

You want to respect the people and their humanity. You want to help them but, when they’re everywhere, you can’t really do it; there’s no way you could help them all. Perhaps the over-arching thought, for me anyway, is wondering how these individuals got to this point.

The reasons are as individual as each person’s fingerprints, though we know there are many contributing factors. We know behavioral health issues are a common root cause. There’s also poverty, crime, health, abuse (physical, mental and substance) and social causes.

As we know here in Las Cruces, homelessness is certainly not limited to big cities. It’s prevalent in cities of all sizes. During the four months of 2021, I’ve seen homeless people in Alamogordo, Deming, Santa Fe, Silver City and Truth or Consequences.

I am certainly grateful for the many blessings that have been showered on me. These blessings, the support of family and friends, and my ability to get and hold steady jobs my adult life have meant homelessness has never been a real prospect for me.

I’m also grateful for the community we live in. The generosity of the people of Las Cruces has given many homeless people a way out, and hope for a real future.

The Community of Hope is the most obvious example. The elements of the campus (hot meals, dry food, child care, medical attention and shelter) have enabled many homeless to bridge gaps and break a cycle.

It’s hard to create and print a resume if you’re homeless. It’s hard to shower and prepare for a job interview if you’re homeless. Even if you’re near homeless, how do you work if you’re caring for a small child? And if you’ve found a place of your own, but barely able to make the rent, how do you feed yourself, let alone your family? The Community of Hope addresses all those needs and more.

There are other agencies in Las Cruces addressing needs. And there are many churches, charitable organizations and lots of generous individuals that help out when they can. One such organization, the Gospel Rescue Mission, has a phrase: “A hand up, not a handout.” That’s a philosophy almost all these groups share.

I don’t have any solutions, but it’s troubling to remember that, in our society, homelessness is as much a part of the fabric of life as the roads we drive down every day.

Richard Coltharp