Support For Scholars Program

Our agency seeks to assist the poor and less fortunate in southern New Mexico, particularly homeless middle school and high school students who live in city parks, a friend’s house, or their cars during the school year.

Catholic Charities is a 501 (c) (3) not-for-profit charity whose mission is to provide social, legal, and economic assistance to people in need regardless of their faith, belief, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity or orientation, national heritage, or cultural background. We were founded in 2004 to help alleviate suffering and provide hope to those southern New Mexico families and children living in poverty.

Because we are a small agency, we collaborate with other local nonprofits, including the New America School and Families & Youth, Inc.’s My Friend’s Place to care for homeless Las Cruces Public School students. Because of high poverty rates in our community, in most years, there are approximately 150 to 200 homeless middle school and high school students in Las Cruces and a total of 600 in Dona Ana County, according to the Las Cruces Sun-News. Through the contributions of foundations and other community partners, we assist these students by providing temporary shelter, food, clothing, and medical assistance, including counseling, doctor’s appointments, and personal hygiene products. Unfortunately, we believe that the number of homeless students in our community is higher because many young adults who do not have a place to live don’t want to be identified as homeless and vulnerable. The need is great and increases each year.

In 2018, the National Center for Educational Statistics reported over 1.4 million public school students who are homeless in the United States. That number represents 2.5 percent of the total number of students enrolled in public schools. Also, The National Center for Homeless Education reported approximately 11,588 homeless children/youth enrolled in New Mexico public schools in 2018-2019. This represents 3.5% of the state’s student population. And, since the report was published, the number of homeless students throughout the U.S. has increased partially due to the pandemic and the continuing national opioid crisis.

The reasons for teenage homelessness in Las Cruces are varied and complex. Most homeless students are not runaways who have disciplinary problems at home; instead, they find themselves in the circumstances beyond their control. Many come from single-parent families and have lost their primary caregiver through substance abuse, incarceration, deportation, sheer neglect, or even death. Despite the obstacles that homelessness presents, our staff, and nonprofit partners have found these students to be conscientious and hardworking, resilient and resourceful, and intent on making a better life for themselves in the worst of situations. On the positive side, 75 to 80 percent of homeless high school seniors graduate each year, and many seek admission to college, find full-time jobs, or join the military.

To assist Las Cruces homeless students in the 2021-2022 academic year, we seek an amount of $10,000. Donations will allow us to:

  • Provide students with counseling and routine medical care, and sometimes emergency medical assistance
  • Rent hotel rooms significantly when outdoor temperatures drop or soar
  • Purchase food at local supermarkets and replenish food pantries at New America School and FYI’s My Friend’s Place
  • Buy clothes, outerwear, personal hygiene products, shoes and sneakers, school books, and even haircuts
  • Secure gift cards so homeless students can dine at sit-down restaurants.

These items will allow the students to function in a somewhat regular daily fashion, but the support also lets them know that the community cares about them and their situation. In our work with the homeless, we have seen wonderful results when an individual or foundation intervenes in a poor person’s life, however large or small. The sense of caring and hope it instills in the homeless is immeasurable.

With support from the community and foundations, we have already provided over $100,000 in assistance to homeless students since December 2017. But our agency’s resources are limited, so we hope to partner with the community to provide the necessities of life to more homeless students who have suffered greatly in their young lives.

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Organizer

Cesar Hernandez 
Organizer
Las Cruces, NM
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