SANTA FE, N.M. — You see them on the streets, sludging around with their bleak backpacks somewhat aimlessly… . Do you think they’re bad kids? Wayward? Rough? Do you wonder what they’re doing there, how they got there? Why they aren’t in school, at sports practice or music lessons? Where are their parents, and why are they out and about wandering like that? Something could happen to them … .
Ali MacGraw got out of her sickbed to speak at the benefit for homeless and in-crisis youth in Santa Fe at the Boots, Bolos, and Boogie Gala for the Santa Fe Youth Shelters & Family Services. Her words were heartfelt and heart-wrenching. “Our community has an epidemic problem with youth homelessness that needs our help badly,” with “kids facing terrible challenges, not due to their choices.”
There are no qualifications, exams or requirements to fulfill for becoming a parent. Lemmings do it! Sometimes, in Santa Fe, parenthood is an accident, the result of carelessness more than the highest expression of L-O-V-E. Sometimes it’s immature children themselves getting saddled with children and they can’t manage. Also, “bad” people get to procreate. Most upstanding folks would rather not know about those households.
Anna’s father died when she was 16. Her mother “had some mental problems” and, when she came after Anna with a gun one time too many, the teenager moved to a relative’s house. There was abuse there, though, and she had nowhere else to turn but the streets.
Jenna’s parents were divorced and her mother was so zoned out on drugs that she never came out of her room, or seldom her bed, never made breakfast, lunch or dinner. When they were evicted, mom went one direction and Anna ended up on the street. Let’s just face it, some people are not cut out to be parents
And some kids grow up in a violent culture where hitting women and children is the norm, and it’s taken for granted that you don’t question what Uncle Jack is doing in the next room, alone, with a child, girl or boy … . It’s allowed. IT IS ALLOWED! “Hey, the kids will grow up fine! It happened to me and look at me, I came out OK. That’s just how Uncle Jack is.”
What happens to these kids? Most have nowhere to go. Thousands of Santa Fe children are living outside on the streets!
Someone has to come to the rescue … . Popeye? Superman? Church or state?
In Santa Fe, it has been a little blonde-haired bullet named Patty Carter.
Pat and Patty Carter were America’s dream couple. Pat was a Fireball, a rock star who made it big playing “Sugar Shack” in the ’60s with Jimmy Gilmer and The Fireballs, remember? Heady glamorous days until tragedy struck Patty.
Patty Carter offered God a bargain; if he would cure her cancer, she would dedicate the rest of her life to helping others. He did and she has been. Her cancer is clear, and she has been spearheading the Youth Shelters and Family Services initiative helping traumatized, neglected, abused, abandoned and runaway teens ever since.
About 1,100 youth a year have somewhere to go when home is not safe, and their families don’t shelter, love, protect and nurture them. Six separate but integrated programs (Youth Emergency Shelter, Transitional Living Program, Street Outreach Program, Community Counseling Center, Access! Training and Education Collaborative, and Pregnant and Parenting Youth Initiative) are coordinated to move children off the streets into housing, education and jobs while addressing their mental and physical health needs. Patty has been mother, best friend, confidante, protector and inspiration for these children.
She says, “If we don’t intervene at this age and get the children off the streets so they can get the help, support and services they need, my greatest fear is they could suffer a lifetime of mental health issues not addressed and spiral downward more, and become part of the chronic adult homeless problem our country and Santa Fe faces today.”
Nearly 300 people came to support her and pitch in at Boots, Bolos, and Boogie, where over $100,000 was raised.
Guess who the entertainment was. Since Ms. Carter has some powerful connections in the music industry, she got Jimmy Gilmer and The Fireballs, and they played all the golden oldies for the crowd to boogie to! Boy, were they good! The dance floor was packed and everybody sang the chorus to “Sugar Shack”!
Home: a place where you can set your things down and they will be there when you return; where you can close your bedroom door and sleep in peace. For young people whose families have failed to provide one, Youth Shelters offer a home.
Ashley Margetson has a BA in English from UCLA, is a senior real estate broker with Sotheby’s International Realty and has a finger on the pulse of philanthropic activities in Santa Fe. To tell us about an upcoming event, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jimmy Gilmer and The Fireballs rock out!
Jimmy Gilmer and The Fireballs rock out!
Auction chair, Donna Cook.
Chef Johnny V.
Assistance Dogs director, Jill Felice.
Gala chair, Patty Carter.