February 19, 2016
Las Cruces, NM
A visit to Camp Hope is an eye-opener! This is an extremely well-organized homeless tent city on government land surrounded by social services buildings such as a soup kitchen, health clinic, food bank, jobs' office, laundry and shower facilities, and daycare for dependents of the homeless. Camp Hope receives no governmental assistance—only run by private donations—and is purely transitional for those awaiting funding for housing or job placement.
Meet Debbie! Manning the “sign-in” table, she is sitting with a four-pronged cane at her side; her ample bulk is overlooked by her welcoming smile and the pink, knitted Tami atop her fair head. When she takes off her sunglasses, her face belies white raccoon rings which daily sun exposure creates. Her clothes look neatly pressed. She is a resident of this tent city, and a talker she is! Here is the gist of her story:
“I've been here 7 months, and this place has saved me. At 59 I can't believe this has happened to me. None of my friends know I am here (except my very best friend). My boys in CA won't take me in. I led a charmed life growing up with all the privileges of a suburban CA lifestyles. I have a college education; my IQ is 155; and my career seemed secure. When I graduated from college I went into the newspaper business working everyday, saving, and enjoying an affluent middle-class lifestyle. I married a managing newspaper editor, and back in the '70's (the hey-day of newspapers), he made $25/hour. When I recently fell and broke my ribs, the newspaper let me go. I used up all my savings, lost my house, and I had nothing to my name. I was referred here. Although I have a pension, I'm not able to receive it until I'm 65. The social services office here helped me apply for SSI, but it has taken 7 months to go through; so, staying in a tent here was my only option for housing until funding was approved. As a part of my “rent”, I must look for a job. It is so hard at my age; nobody wants to hire me especially when I give the address of residence as Camp Hope.”
Lou and Bonnie Janelle (LBJ) are career professionals who are currently pursuing life-long interests in photography and digital imaging techniques, respectively.