Contact: Jeremy Reynalds, Ph.D., Founder and CEO, Joy Junction Inc., 505-400-7145
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., May 29, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ -- The following is submitted by Jeremy Reynalds of Joy Junction:
For some of Albuquerque's homeless, there would be no Memorial Day barbeque or spending a happy afternoon with friends and family.
They're the ones who can't get in a shelter, or have challenges that prevent them from the community living and eating that characterizes many shelters-Joy Junction included.
With that in mind, I decided to spend a few hours driving Albuquerque's streets and see what was going on with some of the unsheltered homeless this hot Memorial Day.
I didn't have to wait long to see. Bending down to pick up a cigarette butt, lugging a bulging back pack and wearing pants that looked as if they had seen better days was a young man with a vacant look.
He picked up a few more butts, paced up and down slowly, repeated the process a few more times, then caught my eye and started walking faster. I wanted to ask if he needed help, but he was gone before I could.
Maybe he was heading for an out-of-sight "refuge" behind a dumpster or some other similar location.
A couple of blocks west there was a similar scenario. An elderly man-but perhaps a life on the streets made him look older than he really was-pushed a shopping cart overflowing with his "treasures."
Who knows where he was going. Perhaps he didn't even know. Maybe he was just walking because the options for the homeless, especially on a holiday afternoon, are limited. Many of the services usually available for the homeless are closed. If the homeless risk stopping to take a break from walking, there is always the chance they could get arrested for loitering.
Stopping for a minute at a convenience store, I found a guy panhandling outside. His backpack looked more sturdy than his slight frame. I asked him if he was hungry. He said he was, so I gave him a $5 gift card for a fast food chain. He thanked me, and said he would save it for the morning. I gave him my card and told him to call Joy Junction if he needed a place to stay.
While in my car focusing on typing up this story on my Blackberry, my concentration was interrupted by something moving across the windshield. Looking up I saw a man throwing water across the windshield and washing it with a roller. I rolled down the window carefully and asked if he was hungry. In broken English he said yes. He was very appreciative when I gave him a $5 gift card. He said while not homeless, he was having a hard time making ends meet.
As soon as he left, a woman who had seen what was going on came up. I began chatting with her and learned that she was also hungry. After giving her a gift card, I learned that she was having a very difficult day. Her dad had been a veteran and the holiday was bringing back many memories.
I asked her if she was a Christian. She said she had asked Jesus into her life but wasn't living for him, and was an active heroin user. I prayed with her and encouraged her to go to a local detox, and apply to be part of our life recovery program at Joy Junction once she completed detox.
I assured her of God's love and encouraged her to read His Word.
She said, "Thank you for not judging me."
A young couple came up and asked for a couple of meal cards. I asked them if they had a place to stay and they said they were just on the way to Joy Junction, but were worried about being separated. I assured them we didn't separate them. They smiled and thanked me.
The journey continued. A man with flowing hair ambled along a downtown street. He carried a blanket. I wondered where he was going. I asked him if he was hungry. He respectfully declined any assistance. I can't help thinking that he was hungry, but was too embarrassed or scared to accept help from a stranger.
My downtown Memorial Day journey continued. I stopped by two guys leaning against a wall and asked them if they were hungry. Their eyes lit up when I said I had fast food gift cards.
One was a vet! I told him I was so sorry that he was homeless. He smiled a little but declined the offer of a place to stay, saying "I'm camping out. It's okay. It's been a long time now."
He looked at me again, and said, "It's Jeremy, right?"
"Yes," I said.
I offered him my card which he gratefully accepted while grinning and saying, "I'll take one. The last one went through the wash." As the afternoon became early evening, I spotted a couple with their dog pushing a loaded shopping cart.
I stopped to talk. It turned out the threesome, Joe, his wife JoAnn and their dog Bella, had recently been catapulted onto the streets. I gave them fast food gift cards again and wanted to help them, but local regulations don't allow us to take animals at Joy Junction.
Hearing their plight about how their feet were hurting so much after walking the streets for hours, I felt compelled to call a local motel we work with, and give all three a night's safe lodging.
JoAnn said, "Oh, a shower is going to feel so good."
Please say a prayer for them. Can you even imagine how it would feel to be newly homeless?
I moved on to look under a highway overpass, a spot that's frequently used by some homeless people, and located ironically a few yards from a restaurant.
There was no one there, but there were signs of life that included a Bible, an almost empty roll of toilet paper and some empty food cartons.
I left and got back in my car. An afternoon spent driving the streets of Albuquerque had turned into one of my best Memorial Days ever. I hope I encouraged those people who came across my path as much as they encouraged me.