This morning I am meeting with Dr. Lisa Grayshield, Assistant Professor Counseling & Educational Psychology, NMSU, who is part of the Community Advisory Board MVCH has been invited to be a part of.
May 22, 2012 : Last night we had to have the police escort one of residents off the property. This is the first incident like this we have had in months. Kudos to our safety team responding responsibly and LCPD for their timely intervention.
May 21, 2012 : Today we had some karmic intervention. One of four beach cruiser bikes that was donated several weeks ago by a lovely couple from Picacho Hills ended up being stolen while parked and locked outside WalMart where one our camp residents works full-time a couple weeks ago. Luckily, Bob Lindsey, Bicycle Bob, who is in charge of our camp bike program, had all four registered with LCPD the same week we got them. Oddly enough a young man showed up riding it today at camp, and even though the bike brand had been painted over, the serial number still matched up with our LCPD registration receipt! Sorry about your bad luck, young-in! Now we’ll have to get the other 7 bikes that were just donated registered! It’s a small world after all!
May 17, 2012 : Pat Sullivan, also known as Sully, who has been helping us out since November with food clothes and such, is coming out on Sunday with his son to cook us some beans and tortillas. Apparently he is known in the service for his beans, so we are going to have some Good food!
May 16, 2012 : It seems we are having Porto-Potty problemas! Our service provider is having technical difficulties with both of their trucks. And the four potties we use are full! Hopefully this will be resolved in the next day or two, and thankfully there is a nice breeze and its not too hot. Whew! Or maybe Pee-yoo!
May 15, 2012 : This morning Randy Harris sent me a link to a news article about Rhode Island considering a “Homeless Bill of Rights”. Check it out! Maybe New Mexico needs this too!
Homeless Bill of Rights
May 10, 2012 : Today at 100pm our Camp Safety Team attended a Crisis Intervention training given by Ron Gurley and Tony Alvedrez.
Crisis Intervention pics
Awesome pizza party from University Church, even in the rain, and they even brought Matt Mercer a birthday cake!
May 9,2012 : We survived our first Spring rainstorm yesterday. It started to rain late in afternoon as the temperature dropped, I even had to change out my shorts for some jeans. The camp was buzzing with activity all day as people tried to prepare and secure their tents for the threat of severe weather, including rumors of hail and flash flooding. By 630pm there were at least ten people huddled on the back porch of MVCH under the awning, bundled up in the last of the blankets I handed out and wearing the last of the stash of spring jackets I had hidden away months ago. At least 8-9 of our residents had to share two of our canvas wall tents because their own tents had become water logged from the windy rain blowing underneath rain flies and tarps or because their door zippers had already been destroyed from the dust storms of the last months. Everyone just tried to take care of each other, knowing the forecast for rain was for a couple more days. It’s chilly and grey outside now, about 230pm Weds., and I hope we get through another night and that everyone can stay dry and get some sleep. The canvas wall tents definitely do their job, and do it well, and if we need to, we can set up the last one we have in storage in a pinch.
May 7, 2012 : Friday morning I asked Mister Sykes to drive me over to NMSU campus where I had been invited as a guest speaker in a criminal justice class. Dusty Thornton, a student, had emailed a couple weeks ago, noting that he and his group were doing an oral presentation about the homeless and about ethics. When I got there I was a little nervous, but as soon as I met Dusty and saw his classmates gathering, I realized how awesome it was to be there. As soon as the teacher got into the classroom she lightened the air by making fun of the students on their last day of school. Sykes and I sat in the back and laughed, “ahhhhh, Youth!” The two other students in Dusty’s group were well prepared and gave a PowerPoint presentation illustrating the myths of homelessness and the real statistics and what ethics questions arise out of failing to see homelessness as a social justice issue. I spoke for about 15 minutes, talking about my personal experience and about the Camp Hope project of MVCH. The class and the teacher asked some great questions and seemed genuinely interested, even though the last day of school loomed in the air. I thank Dusty and his class and teacher for giving me another opportunity to speak as a homeless advocate. And I hope you all have a great summer, and wish you continued success with your studies!
May 4, 2012 : Yesterday afternoon I met Joann Vullo, the statewide peer outreach specialist for Optum Health of Las Cruces.
Joann has sceduled mental health outreach for all the MVCH homeless clients.
Joann also connected me with Mesilla Valley Hospice who is sending a representative to assess how they can help those residents of Camp Hope and the homeless, who are currently in need of hospice care.
Joann was referred to me by Janet Lindsay, who I have come to know over the years through her work with HIV prevention and testing here at MVCH. It is overwhelming to me, to see our aspirations for creating these pathways, to improving the quality of life for people, starting to unfold through all of these amazing volunteers stepping forward to offer assistance and share our vision. Creating these networks through Camp Hope may offer Las Cruces as a community a long term grassroots solution in helping the homeless access services and in really meeting the healthcare needs of all the homeless that are not in any current programs. I am also considering inviting all of these Health service agencies to come out once a month, together, to do screenings and outreach perhaps cooperating with St. Luke’s Health Care Clinic to see if we can expand finding ways to get folks to the help they need. Thank you Joann and Janet for coming out to help us help the homeless!
May 2, 2012 : Nicole Martinez, Interim Exec. Dir. of MVCH, informed me that one of her friends who works for Wellcare Options Home Health Services ,Sita Boldt would like to do a presentation for our Camp residents. She is willing to come out to Camp Hope and the MVCH campus to care for people. She’s interested in giving a presentation on services she can provide, and also on general awareness of heat stroke, medications, dehydration, hernias, etc. So Friday May 18th at 200pm she will be in the MVCH resource room to offer her services, field questions, and set up seeing how she can help our residents that need assistance while they stay with us over the summer. I am personally very excited as I have been considering how we could get some support for our chronically ill and disabled folks all through this winter. Living outside, homeless, compounds many health issues. Thank you Sita, your effort is greatly appreciated.
May 2, 2012 : I got an amazing email this morning from Toni Hendricks, local Manager of Maurices who informed me that their corporate headquarters has given her the go-ahead to run a “Summer Supply Drive” for our residents. Starting next Monday for a whole month, any of their customers who drop off a donation for us at the store will receive 20% off ANY regular priced item. How awesome is that! So tomorrow at our weekly Great Conversation meeting I will ask the residents to brainstorm any other items we might need to help get us through the summer. RIGHT ON, Toni Hendricks, and thank you Maurices for your support!
April 30, 2012 : Tomorrow, May 1st, Katherine from FYI will be coming to MVCH to do a Tobacco Outreach Education Class about the health risks associated with long term cigarette use. The class will begin at 1:30 pm in the resource room at MVCH and she will be offering an incentive to participants that attend. On the ninth of May, University Church will holding a “Pizza Party” here for our camp residents, which is incidentally two days before my birthday, WOO-HOO! We always enjoy when their families come out and spend a couple hours with us!
April 25, 2012 : Our weekly Great Conversation went really well today. It is encouraging to see more members of our camp take ownership of the roles they have chosen, and to listen to more folks attending the meeting invest in managing the day to day activities. James Sassek and Dusty Morgan are just two such people, and it is nice to see their involvement unfolding and initiative spreading to others who want to help our camp grow successfully and continue to run smoothly. Sue and I made it to Albuquerque safely and I am now sitting in my hotel room, feeling quite pampered, wishing my two puppies were here. Ha-ha! We will be attending a dinner later this evening, so after I get rid of my three hour car butt, I will dress up a little and enjoy the company of the good people that invited me here.
April 24, 2012 : Today Bicycle Bob took the registration numbers of our 6 fully fixed up donated bikes to LCPD so that they are now not only roadworthy but traceable if they go missing. We will still be accepting bike donations, but will give them to residents who truly need them. I have been preparing for my trip up to the NM Coalition to end Homelessness conference in Albuquerque, which I am attending with Sue Campbell. I am excited to meet some new people and network, representing Camp Hope. And I am definitely going to enjoy a very long bubble bath!
April 23, 2012 : This past weekend was long but good. Saturday, after picking up four bikes donated to the camp, another gentleman stopped by and dropped off about 100 MRE full army meal packs. And another gentleman brought some food and gave us a cash donation. I decided to invest in a large crock pot slow cooker for the camp, which I had wanted for awhile now, so folks can cook beans and such regularly. Sunday, Robert, our resident Boy Scout leader, decided to treat the entire camp to a steak dinner BBQ, since he just got awarded his disability. I made several trays of macaroni salad, and a pot of outstanding beans which disappeared in 20 minutes. We cooked the steaks on a new propane grill that was donated to us last week by Tony from Jail Diversion. The entire camp was stuffed and satisfied! it is really good to cook for each this way, and everyone chips in, making the camp feel more like a home, and a place where everyone feels welcome. Thanks to all who make our project a little better each day!
April 21, 2012 : Today Dother Sykes, one of our safety team leaders, and I headed out to Picacho Hills to pick up four bikes. After lunch yesterday I was approached by Richard and Roberta Aros, who generously told us when and where we could pick them up. They also gave us two bike racks that hold all four mint condition beach cruiser bikes perfectly. We will use them for our Camp Bike Loaner program, and I am sure they will be well used and very appreciated by many here. I guess I should add bike tire liners and green slime to our donation list, because everyone knows how nasty goat-heads can be here in Cruces! Thank you to the awesome couple from Picacho Hills!
April 20, 2012 : Got some great news today! Sue Campbell and I will attending a conference held by the NM Coalition to End Homelessness in Albuquerque where we will speaking on a panel on homeless advocacy. Sue will also be receiving an award for Direct Service Employee of the Year. And Camp Hope has been elected Inspiring Idea of the Year, which I will accept on behalf of all the volunteers and supporters that have made our project happen. Congratulations everyone!
April 19, 2012 : Today I was invited to speak at NMSU for a criminal justice class in May, by a student named Dusty Thornton. The focus of their discussion is the homeless and the myths and stigmas associated with homeless people and how future law enforcement officers can better serve their communities by having more empathy and understanding of how to approach those living on the streets. This is another great opportunity to advocate for the homeless, as a homeless volunteer here at the Camp and as a gay hate crime survivor. I look forward to speaking with their class and hope I can help them in any way I can.
April 18, 2012 : Monday, Esperanza Mental Health Services began doing a screening outreach at MVCH and several of our residents in camp met with them to see if they qualify. As well, I was forwarded an email yesterday by Sue Campbell, SOAR caseworker, about a discussion group on Thursday. The event, called the “Community Advisory Board” will be at the Mountain View Market community room this Thursday, 4/19/12, from 8:30AM-12:30PM. “The purpose of the event is to really create a dialogue where we can learn about the mental health needs in the community and learn how we as an educational institution, NMSU, might better serve those needs. There will be representatives from different community agencies and from within the school system that will be attending.” This topic is important to all realms and systems in our society, including the homeless, veterans, women, disabled, and survivors of many things that are part of Camp Hope. So, I can’t think of a more exciting situation than having the opportunity to participate in an open dialogue about these issues, arising out of becoming part of the Great Conversations network Randy Harris has initiated here in Las Cruces. The sciences of formative cognitive growth and formative educational development are part of the reason I study ancient languages. And they have been steadfast companions in many dynasties of many culture’s legacies of wisdom that have been left to all of us. That communities like ours have the chance to address the imbalances within our economic social circuits freely and preserve the ecology of the relationships that nurture real growth and catharsis openly, is indeed a privilege. Thanks for the invitation, Abagail Rotholz, CMSA President and Graduate Assistant to Dr. Michael Waldo, and I hope to meet some new and amazing people!
April 16, 2012 : Last Friday evening I received a call from Senator Udall’s office thanking me for e-mailing them and introducing them to our project here in Las Cruces. His secretary expressed Mr. Udall’s interest in Camp Hope and she said that their local field office would contact me soon, perhaps to come and visit or offer us more support. I also received an e-mail from Toni Hendricks this morning, the manager of the local women’s clothier Maurices, who offered some our residents some work this past month. She said she will discussing with the main corporate office this week about sponsoring a supply drive for the camp to help us gear up and prepare for summer. I am always impressed when young women such as Toni simply step up and make these things happen to support a cause like ours. It is effort like this that makes a difference to the homeless community here and now. I look forward to working with Toni and Maurices and hope we can continue to make a better situation for our folks out here. Thank you!
April 13, 2012 : Sasha, a young man involved with Occupy Las Cruces, asked me several months ago about the possibility of our camp lending a student group from NMSU a couple of our Davis canvas wall tents, that we have yet to get permission to use from the City Fire Chiefs. I said sure! And yesterday I was contacted by Kelsey Souza from OASIS- Organization of Aggie Students Inspiring Sustainability- to take me up on the offer I made with Sasha, for their 5th annual Las Cruces Earth Day Event on Sunday, the 22nd of April. So these students will get to break in a couple of our tents for a good cause. We also lent one to St Luke’s Health Care Clinic for their Women’s Health Day a couple weeks ago. I’m sure Davis tent Company would be pleased by all the community service their tents are offering Las Cruces! Hopefully, next month, we will be able to use these tents to provide more stable transitional living at Camp Hope for some of our older and disabled residents. Thanks for giving us a chance to branch out Aggies!
April12, 2012 : Yesterday, while James and I were having lunch at the Caldito, Pamela Angell informed us that an elderly couple had been asked to leave the Gospel Rescue Mission, as the woman was disabled and incontinent and they could not handle it. We are used to this news and have had several older disabled folks join our camp temporarily over this winter that could not remain at the Gospel Mission, for what ever reason. Our concern is, at this stage of the Camp’s growth, that we are not equipped to manage residents who truly need hospice care, even though we never turn folks away or discriminate against any one with chronic health issues. If such people can not stay at the Mission, the only shelter in town, they truly do not have anywhere else to go. We also had an elderly gentleman join our camp last week who had recently had a stroke who also could not stay at the shelter across the street. As we branch out more and more in the community and look forward to our camp being here for the long term I believe we must start to consider how to address this challenging issue. Being homeless is hard enough most days, but compounded health issues for our elders who need and deserve better health care is going to take some creative networking here in Las Cruces. As we look to creating a safer and more stable place here, I envision maybe even having RN’s that can visit our camp and check up on our residents, and if we can improve the conditions here, that might be a great stepping stone to help folks to get hospice care in a more permanent housing situation. I “Hope” we can rise to the challenge!
April 11, 2012 : Today James Vonbehren and I had the pleasure of having lunch with Sarah Nolan at El Caldito Soup Kitchen. She is Executive Director of Cafe- NM Communities in Action and Faith, and met us at the John Paul Taylor Symposium earlier this month, which was themed around quality of life being a social justice issue. She has generously offered to help the camp in any way, and had some great suggestions in guiding James and I to help represent the homeless here. We discussed addressing issues such as hospice care and transitional living growing out of the Camps’ success and investing in long term housing projects in the future that truly meets the basic needs of the diverse population that make up our fledgling community. This kind of creative networking is the foundation of how we can take the steps necessary to ensure the well being of many people, that perhaps would have fallen completely through the cracks, that are not just acknowledged and counted, but invited to participate in creating a better future together. Thank you Sarah, for your motivation and interest in our project. James and I both look forward to working with you and your organization!
Tuesday April 11, 2012 : On Friday Mr.Gall came to visit us, he is from the Dona Ana community College- dept. of Building tech., and he offered his support and mentioned that he had seen projects like ours, such as Dignity Village in Portland, Oregon. He said his students could build 10 a month, of the “up to code structures” they have begun to create there, in Portland (which is a tent city that is about the same size as ours that has been there since 2000), here for us, including solar power. In conjunction with the support the Army and Air force here in Cruces, this is pretty exciting. To project; in terms of city management costs, at a place like the Mesilla Valley Community Of Hope, low impact transitional living, for as long as it takes, seems almost superfluous when considering the amount of resources at hand, like students, veterans, and the harbingers of activism that are timeless, that can can simply make these things happen, here in this community, right now! Getting the local businesses and branches of commerce here to invest, seem like the next logical step to manifesting a a simple alternative solution to managing indigent homeless and those falling through the cracks. As a veteran of the first Gulf War said to me today, ” the V. A. and service agencies have a pill for everything when you go to get your benefits, but there’s two pills they don’t have yet, for when your broke, and when you are homeless” The catharsis of creating a community against the grain of commercially viable norms is not just enticing. Synthetic drugs, STD out reach and harm prevention become formative education and pro-to economics as a developmental infrastructure, and are part of a conglomerate of common sense that are not about class or privilege, but everyday life for all of us, the survivors of many things.
Looks good to me!
April 5, 2012 : Congratulations to Bicycle Bob who is finally indoors after several years through a housing program here at MVCH and Nicole Martinez’s initiative! I spent a lot of time with him last year and was camped out on the other side of Burn Lake when Bob was brutally assaulted by three young men while he was sleeping. So I am very pleased and tickled that he has a safe space to reside now, and can’t wait to see him start making bead jewelry again! Also, congrats to David Morrison for getting a job at WalMart a week or so ago, who rides to work on a bike that Bob refurbished. Keep the good stuff coming!
April 3, 2012 : So James’ tent collapsed in the wind Monday. It was already worn from over two months use and couldn’t take the wind. So I gave him my old tent and pulled a donated Kelty 3 man tent out of storage. Unfortunately the zipper was shot. I spent last night in it with my dogs Upasha and Kebi with the door barricaded by a laundry bag. Phase two is overdue, gotta motivate our supporters to rally to get our residents some real shelter systems that can survive the NM elements, ASAP.
April 1, 2012 : Woke up this morning and realized all homelessness across the globe had disappeared! So we have no need for Camp Hope and we will clean up and be outta here by tomorrow…
Ah, whoops; did I mention it was the 1st of April 🙂
Uploaded our first video to youtube today
My Space, Twitter, FaceBook and all the rest should be coming as soon as we can figure out how to do all of this. Hey anyone out there a Social Media guru, or even pretty good about it all and be willing to come give us some coaching. Sure would be appreciated, most of us are a bit old school.
Week ending 3/31/12
Matt spoke with Nathaniel – Eagle Scout candidate, who is organizing a shade project 4 camp, approved by the city management and will include picnic tables.
Received a thank you from Stephani Lefebure from the NM Coalition to End Homelessness, who interviewed Matt for their April newsletter which features an article on Camp Hope and who invited Matt to attend a conference in Albq April 27.
Matt spoke with a young man from White Sands introduced by Bob Hearn, who is interested in commandeering Air Force tents for the camp so the will be competing w/Army who offered to do the same.
The camp survived another dust devil that destroyed Robert’s (day security) tent and nearly smashed Matt’s tent and turned over another and disheveled several others.
Matt Was introduced to Arturo from Dream Center Church’s group, who bar-b-q-ed fro us on Thurs and invited camp members to their center on Fri for another. James went in his wheel chair and got hit by a car and thrown from his chair while in the bike lane coming home. Both James and his wheel chair are fine.
Received some more tent donations fo various sizes, water bottles, clothes, 100 odd toothbrushes from the Red Cross, foam bed rolls and Coleman stoves.
Brian , a camp resident, asked Matt to contact Central Iowa Shelter & Services in Des Moines. He has some friends there that are considering the tent city model and asked Matt to consult & give some input.
some camp volunteers & Matt helped set up one of the 3 Davis tents for Pamela Angell at St. Luke’s for their Womens Health Day Sat 31st.
Two more campers received their approval for SSI/SSDI benefits this past week, who have been here since Nov. Congrats Robert & Jesus!. And thank you MVCH SOAR case worker Sue Campbell for her amazing work!