“I had never seen anybody literally frozen stiff before”, exclaimed Mayor Berry at Monday’s press conference announcing the opening of the winter shelter. He then went on to describe a time that he had gone out with the emergency vans to pick-up people for the winter shelter. He had come across a woman who was so cold; she was stiff, sitting on a bench. They ended up having to lift her up to help her into the van because she had been unable to move.
The ABQ Winter Shelter opened on Wednesday, November 15th, and will run until March 15th of 2018. Thankful for the opportunity to attend the press conference as a part of the Heading Home communications team, I was able to witness the amount of volunteers and hard work that had cohesively designed the shelter for these coming rough months. For those experiencing homelessness, a warm place to stay in the winter is crucial. Through the teamwork of Heading Home, the City of Albuquerque’s Department of Family and Community Services, and The Rock at Noonday, the shelter has once again been opened and will continue to be an option that many will seek during the winter months.
The press conference brought something else to my attention that was even more eye-opening. As I arrived to the site of the winter shelter it was very much intimidating to see the shell that had at one time been an old jail, but upon entering the facility, the atmosphere shifted entirely. The walls were covered with bright, vibrant paintings and murals ranging from unicorns and sunflowers to visions of outer space. The amount of wall space that had been covered and beautified was unbelievable. I then went on to find out that it had been the work of about five Girl Scouts form the local troop, number 47. Upon meeting three of the girls, I learned that two were current seniors, and both were planning on pursuing majors in the field of science, which completely put the choice of murals into perspective.
Later, through more conversation, I learned that the girls had spent every Saturday of their last two summers out in the ABQ Winter Shelter painting the murals, bedposts and brightening up the place. Through 24 or more days, the troop had made a considerable impact on the lasting impression of the shelter. It was stated during the press conference that the girls had been focused on the issue of homelessness since the second grade. Having carried that passion through their lives, they will be leaving their home town in pursuit of furthering their education, while also leaving behind a brighter spot for many to stay.
The work and selflessness of these few girls was amazing to learn about and witness first-hand. Along with them, the work of everyone else involved will make a large impact on those in need during the winter months. As Heading Home takes on the ABQ Winter Shelter this year for the first time, it leaves me with the hope that through these efforts, no more people will be found frozen stiff on the side of the street. Mayor Berry finished out the press conference by stating that “we will never finish.” And, although the number of people experiencing homelessness has been reduced significantly since the start of Heading Home, the work will never be done. As I close out my second week here, I am thankful to be a part of a team so wrought with determination and a passion for progress.
Kate Averett is a junior at the University of Idaho studying Natural Resource Conservation and Forestry. In the summer, she works for the Forest Service as a wildland firefighter. Originally an Oregon native, she enjoys hiking, skiing, and writing, as well as helping out with the family ranch. Recently, on a break from school, she has been living in Albuquerque and volunteering with Heading Home, providing us with various pieces of writing about her experiences along the way.