Crossroads for Women . . . a new direction for women on the streets
CRFW is a transition program for homeless women with co-occurring addictive and mental health disorders. We help women create safe, secure, and drug free lifestyles for themselves and their children and futures of economic self-sufficiency.
Crossroads for Women provides programming in the local jail and works closely with women reintegrating into the community after incarcerations.
Thirty women at the Crossroads community based program are provided with apartments for themselves and their children.
Another twelve women reside in a nurturing group setting called Maya’s Place.
Wrap around support services include intensive case management, therapeutic day program, counseling, parenting assistance, vocational services, and healthy community activities.
History & Mission
1997- Crossroads for Women was founded with an original donation of $75,000.
1999- 501(c)(3) status granted.
2000- Funds were obtained from the Albuquerque Community Foundation. Case management and housing services began for three women.
2002- HUD funds became available for a major expansion of the program. Crossroads for Women could then provide independent apartments in the community for 20 to 25 homeless women and their children. Counseling and life skills education began with a grant from United Way, and Crossroads began a life skills program in the detention center.
2003- Crossroads expanded the day treatment program dramatically, adding broader counseling services for client groups and individuals, vocational assistance, and therapeutic social activities for the women and their children, as well as after-care.
2005- Crossroads for Women created a new program for women exiting incarceration; a 12-bed congregate living site called Maya’s place. Parenting education was implemented at Crossroads and Maya’s Place.
2006- A second HUD grant allowed Crossroads to expand housing services to 30 apartment units and enabled the agency to accommodate graduates from Maya’s Place who needed continued services.
2011- Crossroads for Women has a capacity to serve 30 women in community based apartments and an additional 12 women at Maya’s Place.
The mission of Crossroads for Women is to provide comprehensive, integrated services to support women working to break the cycle of homelessness and incarceration and achieve healthy, stable and self-sufficient lives in the community for themselves and their children.
The Story of Elizabeth Simpson (Founder of Crossroads)
I was working on a class action case against the jail, trying to improve conditions for the inmates, particularly those with mental illness. Lawsuits have great power to effect change, but they have limitations too. We were, in fact, making great changes in mental health services, but one couldn’t help but notice that the same people would show up in jail over and over. This seemed to be particularly true of women, some of whom had over a hundred bookings frequently for minor offenses such as littering and public nuisance. We were improving conditions for them in the jail, but they were being turned out to the streets with no chance of making a new life-no shelter, no job, no mental health care, no support. It was obvious why they ended up back in jail and we couldn’t do anything about that through litigation. The courts, the jail, the DA, probation and parole were all willing to refer them to community services but the services didn’t exist.
At the same time I was coming to this realization, my law partner, Susan Tomita, and I were regularly discussing what we should and/or could do to fulfill our sense of purpose in improving the lives of those less fortunate. No doubt this was in part the product of growing up in the 60’s. We also had the shared experience of growing up Catholic. Although many of our contemporaries with this history rebelled against it, both Susan and I were imbued with the sense of obligation-some might say guilt-that came from this experience. I can’t recite much scripture, but I had in my head a line from somewhere in the bible about “whatsoever you do for the least of mine . . . “ It seemed to me that the women working the streets were in that category. Instead of receiving sympathy and assistance, they were treated with anger and derision-the target of police, neighborhood associations and civic organizations. Even programs intending to provide services to people on the streets either would not or could not reach this population. Gordon Bernall, Director of Progams at the jail, shared his compassion and concern for this population pointing out to me how impossible it was for them to access services and break out of the cycle of working the streets and going to jail.
About that time, I had a large case settle. Susan brought a steady income into the partnership and my cases were like forced savings. I had thought about using my portion of the fees to start a non-profit serving this population, but it wouldn’t be enough to support myself and provide money for services. However, the moment of inception came when Susan and I jointly decided to set aside enough to get the non-profit started. For me, the decision also served my personal interest in moving into work that had a direct impact on the lives of others. For Susan, it was an entirely altruistic and generous act of providing the resources for this work.
I had lots of help figuring out what the services should look like. I would say there were maybe two core principles that came from working out the model. One was that this population could not be served with a band-aid. Every aspect of their lives had unraveled. They could not learn to parent without substance abuse treatment; they could not control their addiction while living in a crack house; they could not get or maintain a job without some life skills development and so on. Wrap around services were essential. The other core principle was that the approach would be a nurturing, supportive, and respectful one. The literature certainly supports this approach. However, it was also a product of the deliberate intention to reach those that had not been served well by the more rigid and bureaucratic systems of care. And it was probably also a product of getting to know the women themselves who were caring, talented, fun, resourceful, kind, friendly, generous, well-intentioned, delightful people with some of the most tragic histories I had ever heard. One couldn’t help but think “there but for the grace of God, go I” when hearing what they had been through and the corresponding thought-“how would I want to be treated if I were in their situation (or want my children to be treated if they were in that situation)?
From these two principles, the work began. The many employees of Crossroads over the years contributed enormously to how the agency and the work evolved. I think I can also speak for everyone that worked at Crossroads that a lot was learned from the women themselves, from their successes and their failures. The successes, of which there are many, are truly inspiring. Although the work is extremely challenging, more rewarding work can hardly be imagined.