Thirty years ago one Albuquerque resident saw a need and fulfilled it.
There are an estimated homeless people in Albuquerque — depending on which group you ask, their counting method and definition of “homeless” may be a bit different.
This is the problem Albuquerque resident Jeremy Reynalds saw and has been attempting to ease over the past three decades.
Reynalds, originally from England, moved to New Mexico at 21 with a one-way ticket and less than $100 in his pocket. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree, and eventually his Ph.D., at the University of New Mexico.
In 1981 and 1982 he experienced homelessness himself. During this time, he noticed a trend of families becoming homeless — unusual to the trend of predominantly men who were homeless — which was a result of Reaganomics he said.
In response, Reynalds created nonprofit mission in 1986, where he is now the CEO.
He saw the need to help people as his “responsibility” being an Albuquerque resident, he said.
“Every community has a responsibility to take care of the needy, the hungry, the homeless,” Reynalds said. “We are helping our community fulfill that responsibility.”
Sitting on 52 acres of land, Joy Junction is Albuquerque’s largest homeless shelter both in size and capacity — and one of the few that houses families together. In most shelters, the men and older kids will be kept separate from the women and younger kids, but within Joy Junction they all stay together, he said.
The shelter serves three meals a day 24/7, can house up to 300 people per night, provides case managers and has programs to help people get back on their feet.
The Christ in Power Program teaches those with drug and alcohol addictions life skills and assists in employment. The Hands Up Program also offers classes to help people receive and understand the resources that are available for them.
The mission also operates a Lifeline of Hope food truck that delivers about 6,000 meals within the community each month, Reynalds said.
Stephanie Richardson has been a resident at Joy Junction since Sept. 11, 2015 and said the experience has been positive and “life-changing.”
She said when she first arrived at the mission she was terrified — until the intake process when a volunteer told her, “I’m so glad you’re here, and I’m so glad you’re safe.”
Prior to experiencing homelessness herself and being a resident at Joy Junction, Richardson would judge the homeless, because she did not understand it, she said.
“I kind of had an ‘I’m better than that’ attitude,” she said. “Coming in here, and being in here, I’ll tell you I have learned (the residents here) are the most caring (people) that you will ever meet.”
Richardson wants people to know that those who are homeless are just like everybody else — they are strong people who all have dreams and ambitions, she said.
She does not see the people at Joy Junction as homeless but rather just as human beings who are on a different path because of things that were out of their control, Richardson said.
“A person is homeless, not a homeless person,” Reynalds said, expressing that society often dehumanizes the needy, hungry and homeless.
Throughout her time at the mission, Richardson has learned a lot about life and herself — but just like anybody else, she still has lots to learn, she said.
Madison Spratto is a news editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Madi_Spratto.