What's It Like to be Homeless at Christmas?
Joy Junction Homeless Shelter Guests Share Their Feelings.
By Jeremy Reynalds, Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service (firstname.lastname@example.org )
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (ANS-Dec 15) As we gear up for the Christmas holiday, it’s a time of excitement and anticipation for many of us.
At Joy Junction, our staff’s always busy work days are more packed than ever. However, I wondered what our many guests-who’ll be spending the holiday with us at a homeless shelter- are thinking about being homeless at Christmas. We asked a few.
One woman said, “Joy Junction is one of those unique places that truly puts the spiritual meaning of Christmas in the forefront, with the focus primarily on the children. The community really reaches out with a variety of performances that appeal to all age groups.”
She added, “Our Christmas tree is decorated beautifully for all to see; front and center on the stage. It is truly a wonderful celebration of the true meaning of Christmas-a savior is born.”
Quite surprisingly, another woman said it feels good to spend the holiday with us; especially to know she has a roof over her head and food in her stomach.
She continued, “I'm very grateful to the staff here at Joy Junction, because they do care about each and every one of us. It's nice knowing that the kids here won't go without a Christmas gift or Christmas tree.”
Another woman said that Joy Junction has been very helpful during her “time of weakness.”
She commented that she feels a lot of pressure and emotional pain during this particular period of her life, as she went from living what she called a very comfortable life to getting through days without her family. While she felt alone and abandoned, Joy Junction-recommended by a friend- has been a place of support.
“I was scared and very sad. The staff has been very helpful at all times. They take the time to hear me out. Christmas at Joy Junction will be a very comfortable feeling with everyone. The prayers make it a very comfortable place. I thank God for this place.”
Someone else had mixed emotions. It’ll be sad, she said, because she typically likes to bake for family and friends and she’ll miss doing that. Compounding that sadness will be having lost her dad, whom she called the the most important man in her life.
However, it’s also a happy time. “Even though I may not have a real family and money to buy presents, I have made a lot of good friends that are like family. We are all in the same situation and we love and take care of each other. The staff is great and caring. If I can't be with family, then I would choose Joy Junction to spend Christmas.”
One man said that spending the holidays at Joy Junction “feels great, because my couple last Christmas' have been lonely and not fun. And to have a sober and non-homeless Christmas is wonderful. Thank you, Joy Junction.”
One guests said that while grateful for Joy Junction and all they do for her, she’s sad that she’ll be spending the holiday without her kids and family.
She added, “However, the other residents here have been welcoming and formed somewhat of a family bond with each other which really helps distract from feeling sad about my homeless situation. I am hopeful for better holidays in the future.”
Another appreciative guest said she hopes this will be the last Christmas she is homeless.
She said, “Joy Junction is giving me skills to get out of homelessness ... I love Joy Junction, but I need to no longer be homeless. I can make that my new year’s resolution; no more homelessness.”
I asked some of our Facebook friends what they thought it would be like being homeless for Christmas.
One woman said she wouldn’t know what to think. She wrote, “I have never been homeless and I would not know the feeling. Each day I travel to work I see homeless people ... and I deeply feel so sad. Each morning I pray with my child for others.”
Homelessness would be “awful,” another person said.
“I might not have everything, but I have a warm home and plenty of food to eat! My heart truly goes out to those that don't have their basic needs met! God bless you all at Joy Junction for making this wicked world we live in a better place.”
Someone else said it would be “devastating” to be homeless, while another person commented that while her mom was homeless for the last three Christmases that has all changed.
She continued, “I am so happy that she is blessed to be clean sober and will have a warm home this Christmas. I wish no one had to experience this at anytime during the year.”
Joy Junction is all about ending hunger and homelessness one meal and one life at a time. We’d like all of our guests to experience future Christmases in their own home. However, until that happens, with your help we’re focusing on giving on making Christmas 2015 the best it can possibly be.
Thank you for allowing us to encourage Albuquerque’s homeless and hungry for 30 successive Christmases. We couldn’t do it without you.
Photo captions: 1) Homeless for Christmas. 2) Jeremy and Elma Reynalds.
About the writer: 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, www.joyjunction.org. 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 "From Destitute to Ph.D." Additional details on "From Destitute to Ph.D." are available at www.myhomelessjourney.com. Reynalds lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with his wife, Elma. For more information contact: Jeremy Reynalds at email@example.com .