James Sassak was born in Pontiac, Michigan, moved to Las Cruces in 1986, and later attended college in Orlando, Florida. Sassak returned to Las Cruces after a 2011 winter storm known as the “Deep Freeze” threatened health conditions for both housed and unhoused people of the region.
With organizational support to help establish Camp Hope on Mesilla Valley Community of Hope Campus, and recover from personal experiences of homelessness, Sassak eventually became a Peer Support Specialist with Saint Luke’s Health Clinic. Peer Support Specialists work to strengthen relationships of trust by connecting Hope Campus clients to relevant resources, programs, and caseworkers.
An advocate for military veterans, Sassak and others proposed that mobile, rent-to-own “Tiny Homes” be built to increase shelter options for homeless veterans. To promote awareness, the Las Cruces Veteran’s Theater Foundation produced stage plays about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), drug and alcohol abuse recovery programs, and the destigmatization of being identified as “Homeless.”
With Sassak’s help, the Veteran’s Theater addressed the problem of illegal “Spice,” a deadly synthetic marijuana substance sometimes made available to minors through distribution by underground smoke shops.
In addition to Jail Diversion or “Homeless Court” programs on the Hope Campus, Sassak advocates for the consolidated services model to increase coordinated communications between the criminal justice system and City of Las Cruces resources, hospitals, and non-profit organizations working in unison to provide help.
Saint Luke’s Health Clinic, now called Amador Health Center, supports the core mission values of Compassion, Accountability, Respect, Excellence, and Service.