Nicole Martinez grew up in California and Oregon, studied Sociology at Brigham Young University, and, after working for Utah’s child protective services, earned Social Work and Sociology masters’ degrees from Western New Mexico University and New Mexico State University. In 2006, as Housing Programs Manager, Martinez helped transition Hacienda Del Sol women’s shelter into the organizational care of Mesilla Valley Community of Hope (MVCH), closing shelter services and emphasizing the Las Cruces community’s need to expand resources.
Permanent Supportive Housing programs continued, such as Adobe, Inc group home to assist chronically homeless clients. With principles of “Housing First,” MVCH improves local housing opportunities for Las Cruces area residents and visitors. In 2011, Martinez became MVCH executive director at a time when overnight campers began to sleep nearby Hope Campus buildings due to severe winter weather and significantly risen numbers of people seeking daytime hours of operations.
In collaboration with homeless clients, Martinez and other staff members appealed to the City of Las Cruces for lawful overnight camping measures which resulted in extensive planning to introduce safe, sanitary, and rezoned areas for sleeping, preparing meals, and remaining close to services on the Hope Campus.
With the creation of the self-governed tent city known as Camp Hope, Martinez advocated for transitional housing grants to match the needs of Las Cruces permanent housing opportunities. As MVCH executive director, and Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW), Martinez supports caseworkers who assist clients by working to secure funding for programs like Sue’s House, a group residence for chronically homeless women; Veteran’s Housing and Supportive Services; a biweekly Homeless Legal Clinic; and long-time requested establishment of the Mano Y Mano day labor program.
To help support the operational needs of Camp Hope, Martinez created the annual Tents-to-Rents online fundraiser, available to business organizations who volunteer to raise money and provide resources, and for compassionate individuals who seek beneficial avenues of donation.
Mesilla Valley Community of Hope partnerships continue with the City of Las Cruces, the Veterans’ Administration, and New Mexico’s Children, Youth, and Families Department (CYFD). Martinez and MVCH staff also collaborate with New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness (NMCEH) to complete federal Continuum of Care applications, advocate homeless issues during yearly legislative lobby day sessions, and offer technical assistance and best practice training workshops for southern New Mexico organizations who seek to help those experiencing homelessness within their own communities.
In 2018-2019, Mesilla Valley Community of Hope served 2,971 clients on the Hope Campus, an increase of 343 clients from the previous year.