New Mexico’s Mesilla Valley is such a place, and in 2011 a camp for local homeless people was provided on city land. Dubbed Camp Hope, all it was was a place to pitch fifty or so tents. In the years that have followed, platforms have been built so the tents didn’t sit right on the ground and a nearby strip mall has been re-developed to provide social services, including a medical clinic and a soup kitchen where social workers connect with camp residents to help them with government aid.
To Mesilla Valley's credit, most of these services involve the work and effort of various local charitable agencies. But, the lack of real toilets and showers has always been a problem. In a place where dessert dust and dirt is a constant challenge, bathing out of a small bowl inside a tent is not very effective.
Enter Matt Holt, a professor at New Mexico State and his sister Julie Wilson, CEO of a business development group in Ft. Worth, TX., who started a movement called Project Dignity to improve the sanitary facilities at the camp. The effort has raised $65,000 from individuals, businesses, and the local Lions Club and Good Samaritan Society. They plan to build a facility--with a lot of donated labor and goods--that will include showers and toilets, along with a covered patio area and outdoor kitchen that can be used for cooking.
What would it mean to any of us to live without our bathrooms and kitchens? How can the value of a generous effort like this be measured?
So two people with comfortable lives, busy jobs and more than enough to do looked around and saw a place they could improve the existence of strangers living without basic necessities.
Some of these strangers are homeless veterans, others have had lives of tremendous difficulty. But for everyone at Camp Hope, these facilities are going to dramatically improve the current quality of life--all thanks to a brother and sister who cared enough to do a great and generous thing.
Let's all look around and see what we can do in our own communities and when you do, let me know. I'd love to write about you!