Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM)

Holiday refuge.(Trends)

Byline: John W. Flores Journal Staff Writer

Organizations that help the homeless need community assistance to provide food, shelter and other essentials

Despite the economic boom of the 1990s, the number of people in America living without a permanent address has not fallen, according to figures provided by the U.S. Department of Labor.

In Albuquerque, in fact, homelessness appears to be on the rise.

"We have a lot more people coming to our feeding site for food probably 25 percent more than last year," said Capt. George Beauchamp, coordinator for the Salvation Army in Albuquerque.

To respond to the increasing need, the Salvation Army opened a new site for feeding the homeless three months ago at the corner of Coal and Broadway.

Still, helping the homeless this holiday season remains a struggle, Beauchamp said.

"We need money, frozen turkeys, canned goods, a lot of toys, and we need volunteer bell ringers and kettle workers," he said.

The Salvation Army serves about 1,000 meals for Christmas, and also helps low-income families.

"We do two different things: we help the homeless, and low-income families. The feeding program is for the homeless, and we also collect toys and food to give to low-income families at Christmas," he said.

Many homeless-relief groups carry church titles, such as Catholic Social Services, for example. But in most cases it doesn't matter what the homeless person believes.

Eric Sedillos, director of development at Catholic Social Services, said his group has no religious requirements.

"Even though it is Catholic Charities, we help anybody, whether Buddhist, Protestant, anybody who comes in our doors," Sedillos said. "We are truly nondenominational, and in any given year we serve about 9,000 families."

Catholic Charities gives toys to children from infancy to age 18, including stocking-stuffers, and Christmas dinners for homeless and low-income families.

Contributions to Catholic Charities can be made at any local Wells Fargo, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Wal-Mart and Channel 13 and Channel 41 TV stations.

"The information I have reviewed shows the trend of homelessness is going up. The numbers are increasing," Sedillos said.

"We try to help individuals, such as single parents, to get back into the work force," he said.

Most of Albuquerque's homeless aid programs need manpower and materials to offer assistance with food, clothes, cash, and a place to live.

Many homeless people also need help locating, completing and submitting forms requesting various types of aid. This is a service provided by many organizations.

Kendra K. Hobbs is on the board of directors of the Homeless Advocacy Coalition in Albuquerque. She said this year is like just about any other, in terms of supply and demand. …

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