What do you think of when you hear the word homeless? In its most straightforward definition, “homeless” can be used to describe an individual that has no place to live. No place to call home – the place that for most of us conjures up feelings of comfort and warmth, and images of loved ones. At St. Martin’s, we recognize that the word homeless is so much more than a label, and there is so much more to a person that is homeless than just having no place to live. Every person who walks through our doors has a unique and storied past with a singular set of circumstances that have led them to their present state. Oftentimes while listening to the stories our clients tell about their past I am struck by the profound resilience of the human spirit, and at the same time experience an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the blessings in my life. If there is one thing I know, it is that any one of us is just a few unexpected hardships away from being homeless. The troubles we all face on a regular basis are the very same that cause homelessness – financial troubles, medical issues, or even the death of a loved one. That is part of the reason that we at St. Martin’s strive to give our clients hope. Yet another word that is so much more than a straightforward definition. Indeed, hope can change everything.
I have seen the power of hope in action. In the look of a person who’s been given a new beginning; a second chance; a place to call home for the first time in years along with access to a network of support. One particular instance that exemplified the transformative power of hope for me was when a young client walked through our doors exhausted with the burden of going from agency to agency to agency trying to get someone to offer him a hand. He started his conversation with me by saying, “I know you all cannot help me but do you know someone who can?” I walked him up to our intake department and they completed an evaluation and helped identify his most pressing needs; food, housing and a job. Our staff took him downstairs into our shelter and he got a hot meal served with lots of love and care. Next he visited our housing department and as a result of the City of Albuquerque we gave him a housing voucher and he started his search for a home. He was then referred to our employment program and they assisted him in finding a job that would help keep him housed. One person without hope and frustrated by too many dead ends and obstacles found his way back to hope and a home.
This is just one example of the potent and life-changing work we do here at St. Martin’s.
Strangely, we as a community have the experience, knowledge and tools required to help people get off the streets, get a job, gain access to mental health support and services. However the solution requires money and investment. While St. Martins’ innovative programs and altruistic philosophy have yielded tremendous results and recognition from the community, what we can and must improve upon is our reach. We at St. Martin’s know that we can end homelessness! We have the proven science and organizational structure to do so. All we need is the funding and resources to realize a city free of homelessness as we build a community that helps everyone find their way home.
Help us end homelessness… it is possible!
Rev. Fr. Rusty Smith