By Jonathan Baca , Staff Reporter | Photo Courtesy of Catie Mathis
A large group of women and their families gathered excitedly outside of Cliff’s Amusement Park in a scene of children jumping up and down with excitement. This sight did not seem much out of the ordinary, but this group was unusual because all of these women and their families happen to have been homeless at one point or another.
These women were part of a charity group called Crossroads for Women, and this trip to Cliff’s was the brainchild of Integrated Studies major Caite Mathis, with the help of her partner Lambert Lamphie and Crossroads’ Resource Development Coordinator Amanda Douglas, as part of an assignment for a business class last summer.
“It’s very exciting. I’m very grateful to them for doing this,” said Radiology major Angela McGoldrick, as she waited with her children to enter the amusement park.
McGoldrick said that Crossroads helped her to get back on her feet, and was the inspiration for her to go back to school.
Crossroads for Women is a nonprofit that, “provides comprehensive, integrated services to support women working to break the cycle of homelessness and incarceration and achieve healthy, stable and self-sufficient lives in the community for themselves and their children,” according to the Crossroads for Women mission statement.
As part of his Managing Principles class, instructor Eric Strauss had assigned his students to create a virtual campaign to raise money for a charity organization. The assignment was simply an exercise, but Mathis and Lambert wanted to take it to the next level and make their project a reality, Mathis said.
“If I was going to put that much effort into something, I wanted to do it for real,” Mathis said.
The project included working out all the details, including which charity would benefit, how much money was needed, and how the money would be raised. As a private life coach and dance instructor, Mathis had worked with dozens of children, helping them to find direction and joy in their lives, she said.
For the project, she and Lambert decided they wanted to help homeless children, and they chose to work with Crossroads, Mathis said.
“I wanted to plant some seeds of pure joy, from a total stranger, so these kids can have faith in life later and know that there are people out there who care about them,” Mathis said.
Crossroads had always wanted to send the women and children they worked with on a trip to Cliff’s, but they had never been able to get free tickets, Douglas said. Through sheer enthusiasm and tenacity, Mathis was able to secure a donation of free passes for all the families at Crossroads, an estimated $3,000 value, she said.
“I was totally surprised when she pulled it off. It was way beyond what I thought they were going to do, and it has just been great,” Douglas said.
Douglas said the trips to Cliff’s have been a terrific experience for her and Crossroads’ staff, and have meant a lot to the families who attended.
“We know that the women and children are more successful when they feel connected to a community that supports them. Special events that create that sense of community are really important, and having fun is a big deal for someone who has been through a lot of trauma and stress,” Douglas said.
Mathis said she and Lamphie had always been concerned with homelessness, and before they started their project, something happened that made the issue real for them. One night Lambert found a child sleeping in his truck, and discovered that an entire family had been using the truck for shelter.
Instead of calling the police or kicking them out of his truck, Lambert decided to invite them into his home, and he let them stay at his house for an entire month, rent free, she said.
“Isn’t that amazing? What if we all did that?” Mathis said.
Douglass said the main challenge for Crossroads is finding resources and volunteers. Several CNM students have volunteered, and students from UNM and several high schools have worked with Crossroads for class credits, something Douglas said she would like to see more of in the future.
Douglas said there are several ways people can help at Crossroads, which the organization is always looking for volunteers, as well as donations of cleaning supplies for the women, she said. Crossroads could also use help with food drives before the holidays, so that the women can prepare meals for their families during Thanksgiving and Christmas, she said.
Another need is donations for the Crossroads emergency fund, which exists to help women with emergency medical expenses and other unforeseen needs, Douglas said.
Mathis and Douglass agree that homelessness is one of the greatest problems in our society today.
“It is just terrible. We are not taking care of our children. Any woman who makes it out of the cycle of homelessness, substance abuse, prison and all that goes with that, is a heroine,” Mathis said.