Saturday, September 3, 2011

A New Life at Joy Junction

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

Luther was an alcoholic, but a functioning one.

He said he was living in a two- bedroom apartment with a significant other, her daughter and two granddaughters.  At that point in his life, he was doing mostly day labor.  It paid the bills, but it could still get rough, especially if he wasn't able to find work for that day.
Luther decided that he needed something a little more stable.  A friend of his knew there was a position open as a cook at a local restaurant.  Three weeks later, he was finally hired.

Luther worked there for three months, until the alcohol started to take an even more insidious hold on his life. 
He said, "Stress got me.  The nerves all combined together, and drinking helped me not care anymore."
Luther was eventually fired, with the drinking playing a major part in his termination. At that point, Luther said, he knew he had to get a job quickly so he could keep pace with the bills.
Luther said he landed a job at a local janitorial company, where, for about six months, he cleaned offices.  This time he quit the job, because it was getting too stressful.
He said, "It was all nitpicking and people saying I wasn't doing my job.  I said 'rather than argue about it, I'll just leave.'"
From there, Luther said, he increased his drinking.  
In late Oct. 2010, Luther had had it.    Step by step, he left everything behind; walked out of the apartment, walked out of his jobs, walked out of his kids lives.  He went to the streets.  His only stable companion during this time was beer.
Eventually, the beer failed to give Luther the comfort he needed, and he graduated to a more potent addiction: crack cocaine.
He said, "I was spending about 150.00 a day on crack."
Hitting up friends, panhandling and money obtained from selling cans helped fund Luther's addiction.
 Luther said, "I would go out 'canning' everyday, and that was just for one habit.
During this time, Luther was living wherever he could.  Sometimes he would stay at the Albuquerque Rescue Mission.  Other times he would just camp anywhere he could find. 
When winter came, Luther stayed at the Westside shelter, a winter shelter run by the Albuquerque Rescue Mission and funded by the City of Albuquerque from November to March.
He said, "Whenever I got enough money, I would stay in a hotel room for two or three days, but then, back to the streets."
Luther knew about Joy Junction from talking with Albuquerque's  homeless population, and had been to the facility over a decade prior.  However, he had no idea how large it was, nor the amount of services offered.
Luther said, "Everything out on the streets was changing.  People were 'defriending' each other.  People were no longer being nice to their fellow homeless friends.  It was becoming very dangerous to be out there."
He continued, "I was getting tired.  I was starting to slip into (more drugs).  I knew that I could get to the West Side, or I could call Joy Junction.  I told God that whichever bus came first is the one I would get on."
Joy Junction's van arrived first.
Luther said, "I was so drunk.  When I (arrived) ... I don't even remember who was there.  I was so drunk I don't remember what was going on.  All I do know is that I was SO scared of the heroin, that I knew I had to stay.  I had to get off the streets.  I didn't really feel anything when I first got to Joy Junction.  I was fading in and out."
Luther got signed in, and was shown to his spot where he would spend the night.
The first thing he did when he woke up the next morning was to ask if Joy Junction had a recovery program. After hearing a description of our program from a staff member, Luther was very interested.
He said,  I knew I needed it.  I was tired of the drinking and all that.  I was REALLY afraid of the heroin."
Currently in his fifth month of the program Luther is doing well. His program assignment is helping residents with their needs. Much like he was when he came through the door, Luther now helps those same scared people understand  they are safe.
Luther is thinking about life after Joy Junction.
He said, "I see a good future without drinking or anything.  I am ready to go out there, and work with people, and let them know what Jesus is all about."
Luther's caring attitude isn't reserved for his program assignment.  Through the day, when not on duty, he can often be seen helping those in need, whether it be residents, people in the program, staff, or even volunteers.   He is always there to offer a helping hand and a smile.
Luther said, "I would like to get back together with my family.  My drinking caused me to walk out.  I am now going to see them on the weekends.  I am trying to get myself situated, so that I can be there for them in the future."
Amen, Luther. We're glad that we can play a small part in your recovery.

Jeremy Reynalds is Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, a freelance writer and also the founder and CEO of Joy Junction, New Mexico's largest emergency homeless shelter, He has a master's degree in communication from the University of New Mexico, and a Ph.D. in intercultural education from Biola University in Los Angeles. His newest book is "Homeless in the City."

Additional details on "Homeless in the City" are available at Reynalds lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. For more information contact: Jeremy Reynalds

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