Hope Center of Carlsbad
Updated: Jul 17, 2020
By Michael Bromka
Hope Center of Carlsbad is a Christian-themed mostly volunteer hive of action. Funding comes from United Way, City of Carlsbad, Mosaic Potash, Chevron, and private donations of all sizes. Hope Center's mission is helping local folks to transition in life from addiction and homelessness to sobriety, work, income, independence, and a secure place off the streets.
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Located at 1314 S. Canal beside Dark Canyon Bridge and across from La Tienda, Hope Center was founded and is directed by Patricia and Robert Jacquez. Both are serene and have been productive throughout their adult working lives. But up till 15 years ago, Robert was also actively involved in alcohol, marijuana, and expensively cocaine.
Only after a decade of sobriety did Robert muster confidence to seek benefactors who would step out in faith to buy, rebuild, and expand the 501 c3 non-profit Carlsbad Community of Hope Center.
Robert's account of acquiring the property is heartfelt. Its owner already had a cash offer of $180K. But he was partial to Hope Center's proposed mission.
"Give me an $18K down payment, and I'll carry the note -- he told us. But we had only $1600 in the bank. He mulled over this daunting shortfall while we prayed. So here was his adjusted offer -- Give me $2000 up front, with a $15K balloon payment due in November. Digging into our business working capital, we handed over that tiny down payment.
"We got lots of help via in-kind services to haul off rubble, reglaze windows, truck in fill and gravel to set up a 2% grade, framing, painting, shelving. We built new bathrooms, showers and a laundry room. We got offers of everybody's leftover tile from prior jobs, but that's where I drew a line. Instead of hodgepodge, we bought new tile to install a uniformly beautiful floor throughout.
"With November looming, we had no funds left for the balloon payment. But improvements we'd made looked like a million bucks. So I meekly returned to our property benefactor with dazzling photographs -- before and after. Here was something he could see and show. Moved, he forgave the payment and lauded our progress. Carry on! Soon we were accepting clients.
From NMSU, Robert had earned a bachelors degree in Criminal Justice and is working on a masters in Addiction Counseling from Grand Canyon University. Earlier, he'd thought of being a juvenile parole officer, nudging wayward youths back toward the straight and narrow. In altered guise, he got his wish.
"Parents frustrated by drug-using kids dumped them on us. We were a homeless shelter, not an official rehab business! And yet in this new setting, the teens' drug addictions just fell away. They bought into our mission, and strove to fulfill it.
"There are 250 roads to sobriety," says Robert. "The only one I know is Jesus. When we began Hope Center, some cynics snickered -- Robert's got him a scam. He'll be selling drugs to homeless people! Worries about that sort of talk I've long left behind me. Yes, I had sad years of drink and drugs. But I've moved on to something real now! I won't carry that dead dog any more.
"Our no-drugs no-alcohol rules with clients are agreed upon up front. We have onsite drug-&-alcohol testing. If you flunk -- you're back out the door for thirty days. Thereafter if sincere, you can return and resolve to try again.
"Of all people, I know the hide-my-habit tricks. My wife knows 'em just as well from catching me back in the day. When three women together head to the restroom, they might converse while grooming. If three men together seek the restroom, heads up!"
"We are here to offer a hand up, not a hand out. Our rules protect folks who follow them from those who won't. It's hurtful to have to say -- Get your things and leave. But you'd do greater harm to those still struggling if you retain someone not even trying."
In Luke 15:3-7, one lost sinner is compared to one sheep astray from a flock. Robert feels a mission to look upon the individuality of each client seeking recovery.
"A client one Thursday in spring got his state tax refund. The next day he went AWOL. I knew about his crack habit. Sure enough, he came begging back on Sunday night. What to do?
"We assessed how he'd messed up. And we looked forward at the bigger federal return about to arrive. That next check he banked. He pulled himself back together. He had learned from the lesser stumble and he sidestepped the greater trap. In time, he cleaned up his habits enough to move in with his solid citizen brother. He's stayed straight. He was that one lost sheep."
Transition is constant. Not all residents have addiction issues. During the oil boom's housing shortage, newly local school teachers with families from out of town sought stopgap housing at Hope Center. Always the aim is to get situated, oriented, working, earning, and imminently independent elsewhere.
One young couple with a baby have no addiction issues. They fled extended family trouble in another city. With the strength of their trio, they've resettled in Carlsbad to build anew undisturbed by noxious kin. They're strong prospects for success.
"Our goal is ninety days or sooner. But we'll work with those who work with us on their productive timeline," says Robert. "A sober person who arrives with a job might need just days to find housing. A sincere individual making progress might need time beyond the target ninety days. Reassessment and expanding goals toward independence are recurrent guideposts. One woman kept building, assessing, and re-upping till she totaled nine months. But she made it out, self-sufficient.
"Over our first four years -- other than standard transitionals -- we've helped 36 bona fide homeless clients track back into homes and work on their own. That includes three families."
The Center houses up to 40 people within their secure compound. It includes kitchen, common room, restrooms, laundry, library, barbershop, counseling office, showers, outdoor grills, picnic tables, a bike repair tool shop, plus five petite unplumbed homes for ninety-day residents in recovery. Pet dogs and cats offer unconditional affection.
Every week Patricia and Robert hold a Hope Center house meeting to discuss what might help life go more smoothly. Such grassroots sessions glean concerns and brainstorm solutions.
The doorbell and delays answering it stressed everyone. So Robert shopped online for an electronic gate with keycard system. Clients now come and go on their own recognizance.
Decades ago, Robert's uncle -- a barber -- taught him how to cut hair. He now averages five haircuts per week.
"It's dramatic the psychological boost it gives a newly arrived client to bathe, don clean clothes, have a haircut, assemble a resume, and apply for and land a job."
Clients have found work in La Tienda, Pizza Hut, Danny's Place, Trinity, Yellow Brix, Chevron, and the nearby car wash. One couple from El Paso found two jobs each -- determined to build a path to their future. If a workplace is farther than a comfortable walk, the client can be loaned a bicycle plus U-lock.
"Mothers with children always land a job fast. They have motivation and hope for a better life."
Clients agree up front to bank and save 80% of each paycheck. Patricia, officially Hope Center's director, deposits the checks and gives each client a receipt plus their pocketable 20% in cash.
"If an emergency comes up for a client, those funds are available. But aside from unscheduled withdrawal, a big part of each client's new hope is watching savings accrue. In regular assessments, clients plan toward establishing housing."
Wells Fargo sends counselors to tutor basic financial planning and building a credit score. Other counselors and volunteers help send away for and assemble each client's myriad documents and IDs.
"Just holding the birth certificate, Social Security card, photo ID, and veteran discharge papers offers tangible evidence of a client's viability in a world that's moored and not homeless."
Hope Center thrives from individual and business donations, from volunteer labor, and from supportive church programs. Despite the recent quarantine, clients enjoy a weekly service to Celebrate Recovery with First Assembly of God. Ron Hagen from Artesia offers psychiatric counseling. Sonya Martinez comes weekly to lead therapeutic art sessions. Frontier remains for other volunteers.
"We always need academic tutors, childcare, and skilled counselors. Computer skills, life skills coaching, and practical skills, cooking, sewing -- both to offer and instruct. If someone has bicycle maintenance skills, we have bicycles in need.
"Gardeners could help us landscape and beautify our grounds. Xeric plants that thrive without heavy watering. In time, near the shaded picnic tables I'd like to install a modest water garden with pool, pump, and gurgling waterfall. But that would take design savvy and experience."
Robert waxes philosophical.
"Here's a theological question. Are miracles made or are they bestowed? Or both? Recently at Hope Center, we've had five teenage boys in residence, good kids. One speaks no English. The other four are average, into computers and online whatever -- my wife watches their schoolwork.
"Out back, an inconvenient slab of concrete had to be hauled away, but first needed to get broken up. Breaking concrete nine inches thick with a sledgehammer -- not an easy task. After their studies, we let the boys have a crack at it.
"They took turns. And wouldn't you know -- the skinny kid with no English outworked the other four put together. I call that a made miracle.
"When local businesses donate gravel or concrete or window installations, expertise, funding checks large and small, a $15K mortgage balloon payment dismissed and forgiven -- those miracles are bestowed.
"Matthew from Colorado lived here and turned his life around. Made miracle. He earned well, saved up to buy a very reliable pre-owned car. Made miracle.
"We had a couple here from Missouri, deep into alcoholism. Courts took their kids away. And to boot, the husband had cirrhosis and his wife had cancer. Both were in a nosedive. But they arrived at Hope Center and swore off alcohol. Made miracle.
"Matt from Colorado hears that their medical troubles necessitate trips to Albuquerque and Lubbock. In their beater car, they'll never make it. So Matthew sells them his newer car at a huge discount. Bestowed miracle.
"On a Sunday the couple attend service at Oasis. Husband goes up to be prayed on. He falls out, slain in the spirit -- comes to the Lord. Gets back to Hope Center coughing up blood. This is serious, it could kill him. You can bleed into your lungs till you drown. I drive him to the CMC-ER, leave him in their hands -- but not entirely.
"In the ER, his blood coughing stops. Puzzled, the doctors run tests. Even more puzzled, they re-do his medical history. Who told you that prior diagnosis -- Missouri doctors? Well you have no cirrhosis. Not that our tests show.
"And the wife? Her cancer disappears. Sobriety -- made miracle. Cheap reliable car -- miracle bestowed by a Coloradan. But you tell me -- Who bestowed those medical miracles?
"Back in Missouri they got their kids back and they've stayed sober. Sent us a letter of thanks last month. Some miracles are bestowed on us by Good Samaritans. Other miracles clearly are Divine.
"But God helps those who help themselves. At Hope Center we strive to be the skinny passionate kid wielding the sledge hammer. Our hardest and smartest -- we work to make miracles! We'll climb far up our rocky path with that determination.
"For anyone recovering from addiction, homelessness, or both -- that's the biggest made miracle. We each work every day to make an individual miracle. And at Hope Center -- in our brief history so far -- other miracles will get bestowed by blessed neighbors, and by God."