MOUNTAIN RD. & 1ST ST. NW--Two days ago the woman known as Cherokee came walking up Central Ave. It was early Sunday morning. She was dressed as she usually is...with dirty blankets wrapped around her, black boots, and bare legs. She crossed the street and headed towards the newspaper boxes in front of the Flying Star. She looked at the headlines of the Journal and a couple more. Then, apparently finding nothing of note, headed back west, back down towards UNM. I watched it all through the big windows of the Flying Star while drinking hot coffee and waiting for my Fiesta Morning.
What About Me?
Yes, I was aware of my own comfort...and her cold, cold future that day. But Cherokee has some issues. And even if I had rushed out with a $10 bill she would probably have refused it. She has a lot of pride. Ask anyone.
Other street people beg for money. And if you cough up 50 cents or a buck, you worry if they will survive until morning. Will they use that money to buy enough liquor to sleep through the cold and maybe never wake up again? At least I worry about it.
What to do then? Well, later that Sunday Mike and Carol Moye had a posole party at their south valley home. The purpose was to raise money for Albuquerque Healthcare for the Homeless
. What a great way to help those in truly desperate circumstances...and in a way that really does help them.
The party raised about $1200. What’s more, I talked Mike into taking me down to the clinic on Monday so I could see what the real story was.
The Tour of the Clinic
The place was really busy. There were maybe 50 people milling around near the front door and another 50 inside the building being served. There is so much going on here: medical, dental, and psychiatric services; drop in programs dealing with addictions, mental health, cancer support, case management, and showers; as well as the Artstreet Studio.
What really impressed me was the attempt to do more than just treat the health needs of their homeless clients. AHCH addresses their health needs as a precondition for making it possible for their clients to achieve some stability and a permanent place to live.
The dental program, for instance, not only fixes toothaches and other dental emergencies, it also provides dentures so that the client has better nutrition, self-esteem, and a better chance of getting a job.
Plus there is an outreach program which includes the Harm Reduction Program addressing targeted populations such as sex workers and intravenous drug users. But there is more.
The Tiled Wall
Mike and I walked out to the Memorial Garden. There, spread out on two walls were over 200 hand-decorated tiles. Almost every one of them had the name of someone who had died while homeless. Most are never noted by more than a sentence or two in the news...and probably unidentified when reported.
Here, reading through the names, looking at the designs and lettering of the tiles, reading whatever sentiments were left, I felt as much anger as sadness. And now as we approach to longest night of the year, an urgency becomes obvious.
Today at 1:30 people are gathering at the tiled wall in the Memorial Garden for a short ceremony. Then they will march from the AHCH clinic on 1st & Mountain NW to First United Methodist Church at 4th & Lead SW for a memorial service and vigil. It is all over by 3:30. Everyone is invited.
“The 1st Day of Winter, the winter solstice, is a national day to remember and honor those who have died while homeless. AHCH builds our annual campaign around the first day of winter to reinforce how important quality health care is to helping people overcome, exit and avoid homelessness.” --from an AHCH
For more information contact Lisa at the NM Coalition to End Homelessness at 217-9570.
Casa Los Arboles
There’s more. Albuquerque Healthcare for the Homeless also provides residential programs for drug/alcohol abuse recovery and transitional living. Mike and I decided to drive over to Casa Los Arboles which was in a nearby north valley neighborhood.
There is space for a dozen men here, living together with shared housekeeping responsibilities, extensive group classes, 12-step programs, and a way to work off some of the expenses associated with their own care. Dennis Dwyer works in this aspect of the program. Dennis is the truck driving poet I featured about a year ago in a piece called The Bard of Tingley Beach
The Director of Casa Los Arboles is Ed Daly. He showed me the long table inside one of the duplexes that houses the men. This is where they hold meetings and discuss problems. “It’s a boxing ring too,” said one of the men.
“I was never smart enough to join a group like this,” I said. Something of a loner, it took me 20 years to quit drinking. He smiled and nodded.
These men make a commitment to stay 9 months. The program is well thought out and extremely thorough. This makes a huge difference in the success rate of the participants: most residential recovery programs have a success rate of about 20%, Casa Los Arboles is over 50%.
“Three guys who came in here homeless are now home owners!” said Daly. Casa Los Arboles serves about 50 people a year.
Are You Interested?
Want to help AHCH? Here are some suggestions:
You can donate on their website using Paypal. Or send them a check. Send it to: Albuquerque Healthcare for the Homeless, Inc., PO Box 25445, Albuquerque, NM 87125-0445.
You can also take them items from their critical needs list. (Click on the image to enlarge it). These can be brought to the clinic. That address is 1217 1st Street NW. They are open M-F between 8 and 5.
Always needed. And the people you would be working with are some of the nicest I have ever met.
And Don’t Forget This Afternoon.
Meet in the Memorial Garden in the back of 1217 1st Street NW. “Their lives are worth remembering.”
You Working Today?
Share something of yourself this holiday season. Think your family already has enough stuff? So much stuff you can’t figure out what to get them? Donate here instead. Do it online
...nothing could be easier or more satisfying. And you can probably do it right now!
AHCH is remarkably efficient. Your money will go a long way. Here are some numbers to help you get a better picture of the organization and the community it serves.
7500...The number of unique individuals served by AHCH yearly.
25,000...The number of client contacts.
16,000...Nights of stay in residential recovery programs.
6000...Additional outreach contacts.
$0.00...The cost to clients for clinic services and prescriptions.
$1.00...The cost to AHCH for each prescription of the 100 per day dispensed.
90...Number of paid employees.
20-40...Number of regular volunteers.
100...Number of volunteers for special projects.
7% African American
7% Native American
Housing Status at Intake.
20% On the Streets
12% Transitional Housing
8% Doubled Up
6% Other (cars, jail,etc.)