FARMINGTON — Farmington Police officers are breaking down traditional barriers between law enforcement and the homeless.

During the first week of January, officers with the department's District Coordinator Unit surveyed the area's homeless and street inebriate population. They found that more cooperation and coordination between law enforcement and homeless-assistance charities and agencies in the community is necessary to better help the area's most chronically homeless and destitute.

For some homeless people, the solution could be as simple as a more permanent roof overhead.

Jarvis Yazzie, 55, sat inside San Juan Catholic Charities' Good Shepherd Center on Wednesday enjoying warmth and company before heading back out into the cold. It was 10 a.m. and he was drunk.

"We try to survive," Yazzie said. "For me, I go through a lot of depression. This place, Catholic Charities, gives me hope."

Many shelters are closed to members of Farmington's homeless such as Yazzie. Although People Assisting the Homeless, P.A.T.H., housed 65 clients in December, according to the police survey, it requires sobriety for residency.

For Yazzie and other homeless people like him, simply going sober may not be an option in the immediate future.

Police officers were able to get 50 people to take the surveys and estimate that the homeless population ranges from 90 to 100 people on any given winter day. During warmer months, that number likely doubles.


Advertisement

Estimates show that the survey reached about 70 percent of the current homeless population, according to a report provided to the Daily Times. Sixty-four percent of those surveyed consider themselves homeless. Of that 64 percent, 46 percent cited a lost job or home as the reason, 34 cited family issues, 15 percent cited mental or physical issues, 6 percent cited alcohol addiction and 6 percent cited other reasons.

Although the number of homeless citing alcoholism was low, 56 percent said they had attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

A person can be alcohol dependent and not consider it a major factor in their homelessness, according to the report, and it is believed there is a major gap of understanding on how their addictions are affecting other areas in their lives.

One thing is clear, at least some homeless alcoholics want to be sober.

Kee Lloyd Jim, 50, said he is a Marine Corps veteran. He has been homeless since a 2000 divorce.

"Throwing someone in detox for a day, that don't do s***," he said.

Homeless assistance providers need to provide more one-on-one counseling, he said.

The police survey found similar responses.

Homeless respondents were asked if they would be willing to enroll in a long-term treatment program for work, housing or substance abuse. Fourty-seven percent stated they would enroll in a work program, 65 percent said they would enroll in a housing program and 31 percent said they would participate in a long-term, substance-abuse program.

In addition, 44 percent stated they had already attended a short-term substance abuse program 28 to 60 days long. However, 64 percent of those who had previously attended a short-term program still considered themselves an alcoholic, and 57 percent stated the program was successful.

But for Jim, and others like him, every little bit of help counts.

"I had an $85,000 house, and I didn't get it through the (Veterans Administration), I got it through my work," he said. "I was always more inclined to those less fortunate. To live out here is - aww man - you're fortunate to eat every day. People take life for granted. The most important thing is that we have to love each other."

There are eight major organizations in Farmington that provide assistance to the homeless and street inebriate population, the survey found.

Of those eight organizations, three operate shelters, Catholic Charities, P.A.T.H. and the Salvation Army. However, Catholic Charities' Drexel House offers services to families only, P.A.T.H. has a sobriety requirement and The Roof, operated by the Salvation Army, is only open from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. each night.

Adequate housing options could be the key to helping the homeless.

"Most homeless people start off as homeless children," said Hank Hughes, executive director of the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness. "What we've found is that if we can get people into long-term housing, they can turn their lives around."

For now, many of Farmington's most chronically homeless are forced to wander the streets during the day in search of warmth, food and shelter.

"We're not all alcoholics," Yazzie said. "We're still respectable people. We have our views about a lot of things."

Yazzie looked at the television across the Good Shepherd Center. CNN was on.

According to Yazzie, Hillary Clinton will be the nation's next President.

"People think we gave up on life," he said. "We gotta keep on going. Our (parents) gave us good teachings, but ..."

Yazzie's voice trailed off, lost in momentary thought.

"That's the way I feel — I'll never give up," he said. "Life is so precious."

Then his eyes seemed to darken.

"It's really hard to express ourselves," he said. "We'll give you the best we can, but we're not animals, pests. We're reaching out for help."