Categories: NewsPublished On: April 1st, 2024

This article originally appeared in the Hobbs News-Sun. 

I had a meeting the other day with two incredible men that inspired me to think differently about how we address the homeless and housing insecure population in Lea County.  The first meeting was with a business owner and Hobbs resident who has dedicated much of his time to helping people overcome homelessness.  In our meeting, he told me about how he has several otherwise homeless people living in his home right now.  He meets with them, helps them find work, gets them on their feet, and then finds long-term housing solutions for them.

The second man is a pastor.  He finds homeless and destitute populations, brings them to his church, and gives them love and respect.  He also helps them find solutions, both spiritual and financial, that lift them out of their dire situations and get them back on their feet.

These two men are pretty good at getting people to take ownership and change their lives.  What is their secret?  They have been there, too.  Both men had legal trouble and have struggled with substance use disorder.  They know what it’s like to battle those problems and overcome it for themselves.  For both, they ended up in jail at one point in their lives.  They were released and needed a place to work, and it was a local business that opened its doors when no one else would.

I will not tell you the name of the person who hired these men, but rest assured you know him.  He does not talk about his humanitarian work near as much as his professional and political prowess, but it is equally as impressive.  The point, however, is not that we have a great giver of second chances in our community, but the power of that second chance in an individual’s life.

Too often the argument against providing more or improved housing services in Lea County leads to a “build-it-and-they-will-come” mentality.  People fear what will happen if suddenly homeless people find help in our community.  They fear that the population may explode, and the masses will swarm from neighboring or nearby states and communities into Hobbs, Lovington, Eunice, Tatum, and Jal.

I have an alternative argument.  What if we instead focus on the power of human capital being drawn into the community?  What if every person that stepped foot into a social service agency was a potential business owner and humanitarian with the expertise and experience to lift more people out of poverty and into a position of growth?  What if instead of seeing the droves of people asking for help as a burden, we see them as humans with the potential of changing their own lives and the lives of people around them?

I am a realist.  I know that not every homeless person is going to transform into a successful entrepreneur.  However, we all know we could use a few more experienced humanitarians working to lift us up when we are at our lowest.  If in the process we have a bunch of people leave Albuquerque and seek the greener pastures of Lea County, don’t be surprised.  We all know it is better here anyway!

David Reed is the Chief Operating Officer for the JF Maddox Foundation, a family foundation focused on cultivating big-picture possibilities in Lea County, New Mexico. Through its investments, scholarship program, and leadership institute, the JF Maddox Foundation has transformed the Lea County community bringing about the changes that residents thrive on for generations