But when Mayor Ken Miyagishima (D) directed municipal resources towards providing housing for the city’s homeless population, earmarking tens of thousands of dollars for a local homeless nonprofit Community of Hope, the number of veterans living on the streets began to come down dramatically.
Community of Hope director Nicole Martinez lauded the accomplishment. “We have identified all of the homeless veterans in Las Cruces,” she said. “We have a housing plan for each of them. Every single one of them is currently being sheltered.”
Ending veterans’ homelessness isn’t just about getting those who are currently on the streets into homes. It’s also about creating a framework to ensure that any veterans who end up on the streets in the future are quickly identified and given housing. Martinez said that her organization will be able to provide housing within 30 days to any veteran it comes in contact with in the future.
Las Cruces’ achievement is particularly remarkable given the levels of poverty in the state. Census data shows that New Mexico ranked 49th in its poverty rate, beat only by Mississippi. In 2013, more than one out of every five New Mexicans lived below the poverty line.
One year ago, Las Cruces joined dozens of other cities that have officially committed to ending veterans’ homelessness by the end of the year. Prior to that, around 80 veterans had no permanent home in the city.