St. Benedict’s, the city of Alamosa’s homeless encampment is a perfect example of the benefits and challenges of collaboration. La Puente and the city have been working to provide basic needs of the homeless campers here. Things that everyday people take for granted such as access to fresh water, toilet facilities, and waste services. The city supports all of us in this way with street cleaning, garbage and green waste pick-up, as well as public water and sanitation utilities. St. Benedicts is no exception to these city services. Home to 30 people, some camp residents have mental, medical, and physical issues that make clean-up challenging, most have no transportation. With this knowledge the city, hoping to garner the support of volunteers and other organizations, has designated an encampment clean up every third Friday of the month starting at 1 p.m.
The decision makers, local politicians and government officials often work extra hours each day for our community in their work and are often unable to attend regularly. Their absence, while understandable, leaves the bulk of the effort on others. Who then will help, who will step up to the plate?
When La Puente’s Street Outreach first arrived, they were the only volunteers who showed up. The clean-up job weighed heavy with few hands to participate, but soon the crunch of gravel underfoot was heard as those who resided at the encampment came out of their tents and shelters, ready to lend a helping hand. Together the group worked their way around the encampment, breaking off into smaller groups dividing up the labor.
Someone played music from their phone as they talked, sometimes sharing what was going on in their lives, the joys and frustrations of waiting for permanent housing. They swapped old stories, sharing moments from their past, while others talked about the weather or how cold last night was. As we picked up the food wrappers, abandoned camp spaces, and other bits of garbage, I reflected upon the care and attention the residents took while cleaning to take care of the land. They may not own much, but this space is the place they call home. They might not be in the best situations in life, but they are living to the best of their ability here. They all may not have a job, but they have the desire to take care of what they have been given. The people who live at St. Benedicts show us daily that they are worthy members of our community.
They play a vital role and have much to add and contribute when given the chance. While we are too busy, being caught up in our busy lives, we miss the opportunities to connect with others. What good is a community if we never commune together? When we exclude those we are quick to judge we lose the help and input from others. Through collaborative efforts, together the work is lighter and the future is brighter.
To join in and help with the encampment clean-up, it is every third Friday of the month at 1 p.m. at St. Benedict’s, located off 20th street behind the Lee softball fields. For more information on St. Benedict’s or La Puente services please visit lapuentehome.org
If you would like your nonprofit or service work highlighted, please contact Laura Fierce at [email protected]