December 6, 2015. Retrieved online December 7, 2015 from Damien Willis, Las Cruces Sun-News
[Excerpts below reprinted with permission: Read the complete Las Cruces Sun-News article]
LAS CRUCES — Residents of Camp Hope call the idea a “Godsend.” If Matt Holt and Julie Wilson get their way, indoor plumbing that will include showers and toilets could be coming to the residents of tent city in the not-so-distant future.
Holt, who describes himself as a “recovering attorney,” is now a professor at New Mexico State University’s College of Business. Wilson, Holt’s sister, is the CEO of Reasons Group Inc., a consulting firm in Fort Worth, Texas, that specializes in business development and marketing strategies.
The facility — 20 x 40 feet, as designed — will include showers and toilets that utilize city water and sewer services. It will include a large, east-facing covered patio, providing protection against the afternoon sun. The patio will also feature an outdoor kitchen area, complete with sinks and propane grills. It will be accessible to Camp Hope residents 24/7.
Holt and Wilson are calling the effort Project: Dignity.
The idea for Project: Dignity came after the siblings lost their father, Sam Holt, on Jan. 16. Sam, who was 90, was an Air Force pilot. Later, he owned the Yellow and Checker taxicab companies in Las Cruces for many years.
“My dad had a big heart for homeless,” Matt Holt said. “He was a World War II and Korean War vet, and had a huge heart for veterans — which comprises a huge percentage of our homeless population, it seems. So my sister and I decided we wanted to do something in his memory.”
Meeting a need
James Sassak, a founding resident and camp director, said improving access to hygiene ultimately improves the health of residents.
“That will be a big plus, because if one person gets a cold out here, everybody gets a cold,” Sassak said. “I’ve been telling everyone to wash their hands and use sanitizers.”
Sue Campbell, lead case manager at Mesilla Valley Community of Hope, said residents sometimes have to wait several days for a shower.
“We have showers three times a week — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays — but it’s for the entire homeless population,” Campbell said. “Several times, the showers are booked clear up until we close. So it would help relieve some of that load.”
John Bazan, a long-haul truck driver, has lived at Camp Hope since October. Bazan missed his Friday shower while waiting on a load. On Friday afternoon, he said his next shower would likely be at a truck stop the following day.
A matter of money
“We’ve got a long way to go,” said Matt Holt.
Holt has friends in the construction industry, and he started visiting with them about his plan, in hopes of enlisting help.
“I talked to Ted Shelton of ASA Architects, and Randy Farmer and Barry Prahl at Genesis Construction, and they were rather enthusiastic to see what they could do to help this project along,” Holt said. “We have the roof structure and the poles — what contractors refer to as a ‘pole barn’ building — which has been given to us. It has a hard steel roof, which will withstand any windstorm New Mexico can throw at it.”
Holt has received preliminary approval from the city of Las Cruces for the building plans, and hopes to have a building permit in-hand in the coming weeks.
Holt said his church has contributed nearly $3,000 to the project. He has discussed the matter with his sister, and the siblings have agreed to match donations from the community, dollar-for-dollar, up to $30,000.
“We’d like to propose a matching donation challenge, for anyone who is willing to donate to help us make this project a reality,” Holt said.
To contribute, visit Mesilla Valley Community of Hope, 909 W. Amador Ave., or www.mvcommunityofhope.org, and include “Project: Dignity” in the memo line. Mesilla Valley Community of Hope is a 501(c)3 organization, and donations are tax deductible.