The clients of the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope come from all walks of life. And how they came to need the services and programs provided here at the campus range from domestic violence, physical and mental health challenges, loss of an income, a death in the family, and a dozen other life experiences that can lead to becoming homeless or near homeless. Their stories are powerful and examples of challenges, patience, determination, and support.
Their stories could be any of our stories.
We are honored to be able to help them.
Debbie is a 54 year old woman who has been homeless ‘off and on’ for half of her life. For years, she was in an abusive relationship. She turned to drugs, she says, “To deal with how bad I felt, how low I was. Drugs made me feel like I could cope, but drugs became my biggest problem. I was an addict. I ended up in prison. It was awful but it saved my life. I did my time and went to a half-way house. When I was released, I had nowhere to go. I couldn’t go back to my home town because I knew I would be pulled right back into trouble.”
“Thank God, I found Camp Hope. I found my life! I have been here since September. There are people here I really care about, friends. And the staff cares about all of us.”
Debbie has moved from a tent at Camp Hope into Sue’s House, a home for disabled, homeless women. “I am so excited. I haven’t lived in a home for so many years. I am excited but I am scared – it is new and different. I will be fine, I have made progress. Little steps but all in the right direction and I will have lots of support. ”
Barry is a 57 year old Veteran who has been homeless since August. He has an easy manner and is quick to claim both his failures and successes in life. Born and raised in a small town in Kentucky, he joined the Air Force when he was 19. Serving for 10 years, as a pharmacy tech, gave him training in drug toxicity and its symptoms. That experience made him part of the military medical team sent to Iran in 1980 to help extract the 52 American hostages that had been held for 444 days.
After discharging from the Air Force, Barry lived and worked in the Dallas area in large grocery distribution centers like Sam’s Club. Later in Kentucky, he joined County Market where he was a stocker and eventually worked into being assistant manager/crew leader. Barry came to Las Cruces in 2005 to visit his sister and ended up staying and enrolling in Doña Ana Community College. He went into the Hotel and Tourism Management program, worked hard, and was a Crimson Scholar. He wants to go back and finish his education to one day become a certified Executive Chef.
Barry says that last August, the living arrangement with his girlfriend had completely deteriorated and he had to leave. Not having any savings and uncomfortable with asking friends for help, he ended up on the streets. It didn’t take long for him to find the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope and start working with a case worker to help get his life back on track. Getting the necessary paperwork in place was a big job. Barry explains that being homeless can become a vicious cycle of loss – first your home, then other things go missing or are stolen. Replacing lost documents like a birth certificate, social security card, and other identification requires expertise in the process. That is part of what his case worker helped him do and he is very grateful.
“Giving back is only right. It’s important and fair. I volunteer for the Shower and Laundry program here at Community of Hope. Three days a week. Four hours each day. I am working as an overnight security guard so I have the time. They have helped me a lot. I want to help back. It’s good,” he says.
Two days after being interviewed for this article, Barry moved into his own apartment at Oak Street.