Commentary: I’ve been at the Farmer’s Market early Saturday mornings the past couple of weeks with a group working to help homeless teens in Las Cruces.
Or, to be more precise, almost at the Farmer’s Market. We’re set up in the walkway between the Dragonfly Restaurant and the Rio Grande Theatre, and are still learning the dos and don’ts of the Farmer’s Market. The person working with us has been very helpful. And, we also plan to set up outside of the Walmart on Rinconada on future Saturday mornings.
It’s all to promote an event set for May 10 at the Convention Center to benefit the Project Link Homeless Education project.
The event organizers are my classmates in an annual leadership class sponsored by the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce. Yes, I know.
Readers of this column may remember that I wasn’t a big fan of the Bill Allen-led chamber. But times change. This is the Debbi Moore-led chamber. And, the class has been a lot of fun, even if I cringe a little bit at the concept of leadership training.
Every class does a community project. Last fall, a few of my classmates met with Yoli Silva, coordinator of Project Link, which assists homeless students attending Las Cruces Public Schools.
She gave an overview of the situation, and told personal stories about the many teens who have fallen through the cracks – too young for adult services but too old to benefit from family services. They’re left sleeping in cars, on friends’ couches … anyplace they can. All while trying to keep up in school.
My classmates were deeply touched, and once the rest of us heard their stories, so were we.
I interviewed Silva and James Sassak for a story in January highlighting their work to help the homeless. At that time, she told me there were 600 to 700 students in the district who they had identified as homeless, and likely many more who they didn’t know about.
Children are afraid to ask for help because they think they will end up in Foster Care, separated from their brothers and sisters, she said.
“It’s not illegal to be homeless and it’s not abuse to be homeless. It’s just circumstances that lead to homelessness,” she said
I suspect the reason we were so moved by this situation is because of memories of our own high school years. I remember desperately craving independence, trying always to project an air confidence and maturity that I didn’t have, while constantly churning inside. I was fortunate to have a safe and loving home.
I can’t imagine going through that period of life with the extra burden of being responsible for taking care of basic needs for food and shelter each night.
And so, we’re trying to do what we can to help. Our big event will have live entertainment, a silent auction, hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar. Tickets are available at the Chamber, and our tables on Saturday mornings.
We’re also taking donations of clothing, especially clothes that one could wear to a job interview, and other necessities. And, of course, cash donations.
If you can help, come look for us Saturday mornings. Everything we collect will stay here in town, and will go to an organization that is already making a real difference for Las Cruces teens
Walter Rubel is editorial page editor of the Sun-News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @WalterRubel on Twitter.