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Mesilla Valley Community of Hope (MVCH) and its Camp Hope tent city have continued to serve people struggling with homelessness throughout the pandemic, and MVCH Executive Director Nicole Martinez has responded to multiple requests in the past year for information about how to set up similar camps across the country.
Martinez has shared a PowerPoint, a site plan and policies and procedures about Camp Hope with officials in about a dozen cities, including Albuquerque, El Paso, Austin, Denver, Reno and Atlanta.
“I feel like it’s a model that works,” Martinez said.
Having a safe, outdoor space to temporarily house people has been “helpful during the pandemic,” she said. The fenced camp has tents erected inside wooden structures with three sides and a roof. The camp has restrooms and showers. El Caldito Soup Kitchen and Amador Health Center are also part of the MVCH campus at 999 W. Amador Ave.
Camp Hope has seen an increased need for its services because of the pandemic, Martinez said.
From April 2020-February 2021, MVCH served 1,105 people directly impacted by COVID-19, she said, including temporary shelter, helping with rent and providing advice on tenants’ rights.
“A lot of people weren’t prepared for this,” Martinez said. “They didn’t know how to advocate for themselves.”
Camp Hope served a total of 234 people in 2020.
“In total, we housed 570 of our 2,744 clients served overall at Community of Hope, 150 of which were children in families,” Martinez said.
During the 2019-20 fiscal year, MVCH provided more than 36,300 services to nearly 3,000 people who needed housing, help with utility payments, food, clothing, case management and other services.
Clients included both men and women ranging in age from 18 to 95 and included 317 military veterans.
MVCH helped 62 people move from the tent city to permanent housing, thanks in part to its Tents to Rents annual fundraiser.
Without MVCH, most of the people it serves would be on the street, Martinez said.
In March, MVCH completed the installation of new flooring throughout much of the building, which was built in 2005, Martinez said. Replacing old linoleum has made the floors safer for clients and staff, she said. Funding came from the New Mexico Legislature.
Martinez said MVCH continues to raise money for its newest project – the installation of solar panels on a carport to be constructed behind the building. The completed project will help MVCH cut its electricity bill and will provide more shade.
Martinez said MVCH has raised about $200,000 of the $400,000 it needs for the project. Donations are welcome.
After deciding in February to help people living at Mesilla Valley Community of Hope’s (MVCH) Camp Hope tent city, members of the Las Cruces chapter of AARP arrived at MVCH March 3 with donations of human and pet food, clothing and tarps and bags of personal items for each resident.
“This project was thought out by our board members, who wanted to get our membership involved in doing a humanitarian project even though we had to follow all COVID-19 restrictions in doing it,” Las Cruces AARP chapter secretary Irene G. Lewis said.
With donations, (including several hundred dollars in cash, from 24 chapter members), Lewis said, volunteers put together 48 personal bags for people living at the camp that included toothbrushes, cases, toothpaste and dental floss, lip balm, shampoo, lotion, bar soap, wipes, sunscreen, hard candy, socks, caps for men, as well as bonnets, headbands and feminine products for women.
Other donations to the camp included clothing, masks, blankets, dog food, ramen noodles, orange juice, coffee, sugar, cups, toilet paper and 18 tarps.
“We loaded up an SUV and a truck with all the boxed items,” Lewis said.
Including purchasing, pickup and delivery, crocheting headbands and hats, sorting items, filling bags and doing the paperwork, Lewis estimated almost 100 manhours were involved in the project.
“Our members exceeded our expectations with so many donations,” she said. “We were all happy with the project.”
“We’re so grateful,” said MVCH Executive Director Nicole Martinez. “It’s awesome when a group can coordinate to bring so many things needed at the camp.”
ARRP coordinated with Camp Hope Outreach Coordinator Lacie Yoxall on the project.
Contact Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Camp Hope welcomes donations
The items most needed at Camp Hope tent city right now are new or gently used tents, tarps, sleeping bags and flashlights, along with new batteries, Martinez said.
Contact MVCH at 575-523-2219 and email@example.com. Email the Camp Hope outreach coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org. Take donations to MVCH, 999 W. Amador Ave. Mail a check, made out to Mesilla Valley Community of Hope, to Mesilla Valley Community of Hope, P.O. Box 16526, Las Cruces, N.M. 88004. Make a cash donation online by visiting www.mvcommunityofhope.org and clicking on “How Can I Help?” and “Donate.”