Project Link Homeless Education

Yoli Silva helped New Mexico’s children as a Las Cruces Public Schools (Title 1– Education for the Disadvantaged) Social Worker for over twenty-seven years, including twelve years as Project Link Homeless Education liaison to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

Silva worked as an investigator, a counselor for foster care and adoption with Children, Youth & Families Department (CYFD), and advocated for community awareness of youth experiencing homelessness. An important perspective on the State of New Mexico’s foster care system, domestic violence, and its historic struggles with childhood welfare, the CYFD mission statement reads, simply, “Improving the Quality of Life for All Our Children.” 

Locally, accommodated by Project Link liaisons to promote enrollment regardless personal circumstances, Las Cruces Public Schools issues “Student Residency Questionnaires” to identify homeless youth and families in need of assistance. In partnership with Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce, Leadership Las Cruces started a fundraiser event for Project Link called “Linking Hands: Helping Our Homeless Youth” which raised over $36,000 in 2018, and more than $40,000 in 2019. 

Silva emphasizes regular commitment of student support to match the determination that youths need to create lasting educational schedules and routines. This includes community recognition that youth homelessness requires year-round attention, Silva tells us, and not just during holidays or over the winter months of the academic school year. 

A long-time partner to Mesilla Valley Community of Hope and collaborator with former executive director Audrey Hardman-Hartley of Jardin de Los Niños to provide students consistent access to educational resources, in 2018 Silva retired from Las Cruces Public Schools persistent to continue to seek funding sources for New Mexico’s unaccompanied youth.

A Las Cruces Public Schools web-link also shares the informative Community Resource Guide created and maintained by Jardin de Los Niños staff. From child care, to crisis intervention, to food and financial assistance, to emergency shelter information; this vital services guide signals the city-wide collaboration in the Las Cruces community’s history to combine public health with necessary crisis response.

Yoli Silva speaks about community collaboration with the organization after learning that two unaccompanied teen youths became temporarily homeless during the winter season.



Narrator Yoli Silva

Hope Stories 08 –– 1h 49m duration. Recorded 17 July 2018 at Jardin de Los Niños La Paz Room on the Hope Campus.

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Amador Health Center

Pamela Angell grew up in Fairfield, Connecticut. With a Professional Writing degree from University of New Mexico, Angell wrote for a small newspaper in Grants, New Mexico, later relocating to work as a reporter for the Las Cruces Sun News writing about Borderland politics, New Mexico Colonias, and American Education. Angell went on to serve as director for Doña Ana County Humane Society in Las Cruces.

In 2001, as the executive director of Mesilla Valley Community of Hope, Angell advocated for Las Cruces homeless services and organized fundraiser events to increase community awareness. During this time, Angell earned a Masters of Public Administration from New Mexico State University. In 2010, Angell joined the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs to deliver statements to the U.S. House of Representatives on the topic of “Providing Essential Services and Benefits to Veterans in New Mexico and Across America.”

In 2011, Angell became executive director of Saint Luke’s Health Clinic, during which time the Las Cruces community experienced increased cases of homelessness. Rather than prohibit overnight camping, Angell asked members of the homeless community to identify the resources they needed and wanted. This collaboration between Hope Campus leadership, the homeless community, and Las Cruces City Council resulted in temporary measures for the tent-city known as Camp Hope. Eventually zoned to address public safety concerns, and legally sanctioned by the City of Las Cruces, under the model of “Self-governance” Camp Hope offers residents Housing First transitional living with access to partner programs located on the Hope Campus. 

Screen Shot 2018-12-21 at 14.13.42

In 2012, Saint Luke’s Health Clinic organized Cafe Salud, a weekly Harm Reduction Program event designed to support wellness and wellbeing with vital nutrition, exercise, and health triage information. During the first Cafe Salud, a New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) mobile clinic offered free HIV and Hepatitis screenings, personal safe-sex kits, and a needle and syringe exchange. The event also offered a Naloxone aerosol spray training session to advocate for the prevention of opiate overdoses.

In 2018, Angell helped orchestrate a campaign to renovate Saint Luke’s Health Clinic facilities and services. Rebranded by name, logo, and Hope Campus location, no longer considered an unsustainable “Free Clinic,” Amador Health Center increased behavioral and clinical healthcare opportunities with low-income sliding-fee billing schedules alongside Las Cruces community access for those covered by health insurance.

Important to make clear for the local community and Doña Ana County residents who access services in Las Cruces, New Mexico:

Amador Health Center’s new facilities are located on the Hope Campus at 999 West Amador Avenue  for healthcare provider services to both insured and uninsured patients.



Narrator Pamela Angell

Hope Stories 07 –– 1h 51m duration. Recorded 13 July 2018 at Jardin de Los Niños La Paz Room on the Hope Campus.

Amador Image Post
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The Hope Stories Bibliography 2019 draft features titles discovered over the course of research here in Las Cruces, and highlights many source titles to be used for the final annotated version.

In collecting newspaper and journal articles, book titles and archival source material, even webpage screen-shots (not yet added to the list), it is clear that the tasks now require close, trim-and-cut, reading and writing.

I am not an expert bibliography writer, so please comment via email about individual, corresponding, or new sources of relevant information.

Genuine Thanks and appreciation go to Circulation, Inter-Library Loan, and Archives and Special Collections at the NMSU Library in Las Cruces.

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Saint Andrew’s Church Hope

Dr. Nancy McMillan grew up in Las Alamos, New Mexico, an area known as a “Glow in the Dark” scientific community because of its history with radioactive elements and nuclear materials’ production. A youth member of Los Alamos Geological Society to spend time in the outdoors, McMillan established an appreciation for minerals, geology, and the natural environment.

Graduated from New Mexico State University in 1979 with a Bachelor of Science in Geology, alongside a Bachelor of Arts in Russian language in that same year, in 1986 McMillan earned a Phd in Geology with an emphasis on Volcanology from Southern Methodist University. Awarded the Dennis W. Darnall Faculty Achievement Award in 2002 at New Mexico State University, McMillan innovated the Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) portable Chem-Cam instrument to more accurately and easily analyze geological samples.

A Mesilla Valley Community of Hope cofounder, and board president from 1991-1997, McMillan credits Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church priest Father Jim Galbraith for inspiration to relocate the overburdened day-lunch program which later became El Caldito Soup Kitchen. With little available space for hungry clients visiting the church, including increased service needs at Saint Luke’s Health Clinic, McMillan and others organized, promoted, and fundraised a years-long effort to create an early version of the Consolidated Services Model.

The church bell tower of Saint Andrews

Locally controversial, the relatively experimental idea to relocate homeless services into one centralized area blossomed throughout the 1990s. An example for other homeless communities, according to officials from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope became possible after McMillan accompanied politician John Paul Taylor to New Mexico’s Legislature in Santa Fe to gather the initial financial support for design, construction, and staffing of the buildings today known as Hope Campus.

Today, access service locations continue to create risks for those without safe and reliable transportation. When experiencing homelessness, traveling on foot from one location to another is dangerous and exhausting, a terrible threat to life especially for youth and the elderly.

Dr. McMillan describes the geographic process of evolution for Health and Human Services fragmentation across the City of Las Cruces.



Narrator Nancy McMillan

Hope Stories 06 –– 1h 16m duration. Recorded 29 June 2018 at NMSU Public History Seminar Room, Breland Hall 258.

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Hacienda del Sol shelter

Raised in Appalachian West Virginia, and inspired by her mother’s belief in the power of education, Nancy Baker rose above the roots of poverty and into an academic career. Dr. Baker earned a PhD from Tulane University in 1989, joined New Mexico State University that same year, and authored numerous scholarly works about law and government in the United States, including two non-fiction titles on the office of U.S. Attorney General –– Conflicting Loyalties: Law and Politics in the Attorney General’s Office, 1789-1990, and General Ashcroft: Attorney at War. A Professor Emeritus with multiple academic honors, including two national teaching awards, Dr. Baker is a recipient of the Westhafer Award for Excellence in Teaching. 

Dr. Baker helped establish “Hacienda del Sol,” a shelter for women and children located on the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope campus. Although the non-profit organization struggled financially and eventually closed in 2006, its history remains an important blueprint of the competing demands necessary to fund and maintain the day-to-day operational growth of homeless shelter services. 

A 2004 Internet Archive post from MVCH’s then homepage shares Hacienda del Sol’s mission statement, which read:

Assist families and women to become stable and self-sufficient by providing housing, support and guidance in a positive environment that promotes lasting change.

In support of higher education for non-traditional women, Dr. Baker created the “Over the Rainbow” scholarship, a Spring-Board fund with Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico. In 2015, to increase awareness and outreach efforts for those experiencing homelessness, Dr. Baker became a Development Committee member with the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope. 

Now a retired Mystery novelist writing under the name N.V. Baker, the book Vanished was published in 2016.

Dr. Baker concludes the following highlight clip with thoughtful insight about unsheltered men in Las Cruces, and the eventual creation of Camp Hope.



Narrator Nancy Baker

Hope Stories 05 –– 1h 35m duration. Recorded 15 June 2018 at NMSU Public History Seminar Room, Breland Hall 258.

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History Notes

Branigan Cultural Center in Downtown Las Cruces, New Mexico

Branigan Cultural Center presents History Notes Thursdays at 1 pm.  The museum is located at 501 North Main Street in Downtown Las Cruces, New Mexico.

In introduction of Hope Stories, on September 13th, 2018, my History Notes talk and dialogue encourages thoughtful consideration of charity in Las Cruces, and the origins of today’s Mesilla Valley Community of Hope.

Like all History Notes events, Branigan Cultural Center entrance is free.

Hope Stories History Notes pdf Poster

Hope Stories Bibliography pdf

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Las Vegas, Nevada’s CARE Complex

Glenn Trowbridge was born in St. Albans, West Virginia, and lived in Las Vegas, Nevada for over forty years. With service in the United States Air Force, study in psychology at San Diego State University and business administration at National University, Trowbridge became director of human resources in Clark County, Nevada from 1979 to 2001.

Trowbridge worked for a domestic violence non-profit organization called Safe Nest, served as Republican member of the Nevada Assembly from 2014 to 2016, and later became volunteer executive director of the north Las Vegas CARE Complex.

Originally an unsanctioned “Street feeder” program –– today discouraged and considered an unwelcome distinction of well-intentioned “Do-gooders” –– a group of advocates evolved their agenda, raised funds to purchase an abandoned drug house, and renovated the building into the Crisis Assistance Relief Effort or CARE Complex. Resources for those experiencing homelessness include a clothing closet, internet access computers, lockers to store belongings, a city bus-pass program, and services to re-establish important birth certificate and driver’s license identification documents. 

In 2017, the City of Las Vegas approved the “Corridor of Hope” project on Foremaster Lane and North Las Vegas Boulevard, located within immediate area of CARE Complex and other homeless services. 

With an intentional consolidated service area similar to Mesilla Valley Community of Hope, and modeled after San Antonio, Texas’ “Haven for Hope,” the “Courtyard” outreach approach seeks to create greater access to temporary housing, medical care, counseling, legal aid, and employment resources in conjunction with CARE Complex services.



Narrator Glenn Trowbridge

Hope Stories 04 –– 1h 36m duration. Recorded 19 April 2018 at the CARE Complex, 200 Foremaster Lane, Las Vegas, Nevada.

CARE Complex entrance; photo by Mat Ellis

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Saint Luke’s Health Clinic

 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.



Narrator James Sassak

Hope Stories 03 –– 1h 42m duration. Recorded 29 March 2018 at Jardin de Los Niños La Paz Room on the Hope Campus.

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Las Cruces 2018 Doña Ana County Historical Society
David Lee

David Lee

creates dynamic open-access community archive environments for public history sound recording projects, reasonable workflow, and longterm digital preservation. Potential narrators welcome to enquire for 2021 telephone interviews by appointment. Teams-oriented Organizational History available.

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