Understanding Homelessness, Part 3

There IS Life After Homelessness

By: Sonyia Hartwell, MSSW and Saranam supporter

Sonyia Hartwell is a volunteer at Saranam with several decades of non-profit leadership experience, including nearly 20 years at four different organizations working with persons experiencing homelessness. She has worked directly with clients, managed large and small programs, and served on local and statewide committees to address this important issue. 


What does this look like if ground zero is a sleeping bag and a shopping cart under a bridge?  Maybe even not quite that dire…mom and 2 kids sleeping in a locked car on a well-lit parking lot… couch surfing from one place to another until the welcome is worn out…weekly rate motel until the job runs out.

Homelessness usually operates along a continuum and hits families in spurts.

In an apartment for a while, then job loss causes eviction; living in a volatile domestic relationship until violence erupts, forcing the victim to flee; relapse into drug abuse after a period of sobriety. There are multiple scenarios. All of them result in a loss of safety and stability that moves survival to the top of their to-do list on a daily basis.

Source: National Alliance to End Homelessness; State of Homelessness, New Mexico

Every year the National Alliance to End Homelessness recaps the information gathered in the annual continuum of care count conducted every January by HUD.  According to their latest publication New Mexico has some good news to report.  The number of chronically homeless persons in the state dropped from 1,355 in 2011 to 774 in 2022. Between 2007 and 2022 the total unsheltered population shrunk by 56%.

Housing Programs are Crucial

This means that programs focused on moving families and individuals from the streets to safe temporary housing (shelters) and long-term permanent housing are having a positive impact in reducing homelessness.  Saranam is one such of these successful efforts.

Actually their success rate is pretty spectacular; usually north of 80%.  Any organization would be proud to produce such a victory in achieving such levels of triumph for the committed and hard working families in the program. How does this happen? Well, it does not just happen.  Like most good things in life, it is preceded by a lot of diligent work and a well-constructed plan. And help.

For those of us in the community, that’s where we come in.

Little girl lifts purple pom-pom over her head, cheering on her mother in background.A family living on the fringe is hard on all of us; stopping their slide into dicey living situations benefits all of us.  Schools are better able to teach, businesses benefit from a stable workforce, law enforcement can focus on dangerous crime and the foster care system can be shrunk to a manageable size.

Even more importantly, the benefit to the client receiving your help goes beyond the gift itself.  They realize that in the community where they live there are people who are rooting for them to succeed.  Those supporters, complete strangers, communicate that each family is important and deserving; needing only a boost from someone with a compassionate heart who understands and cares. Connection is everything.

Get to know Saranam and their cohorts.

They are an important part of making Albuquerque and New Mexico a better place to live for everyone. Get involved and feel good about it.


*This is the third and final post in a blog series to help us better understand homelessness and how you can help.