On the streets, addicted

By Junko Featherston / NM News Port

Unemployment, addiction and death are all too real when considering the people that are homeless on the streets of Albuquerque.

I spoke with one Albuquerque resident experiencing homelessness.

Hear the audio version of this report here.

Meet Albuquerque local, Dawn Martinez. 

You’re going to lose everybody. It’s bad.

– Dawn Martinez

Martinez is 40 years old and has been on and off the streets for at least 12 years.

Martinez, like many living on the streets, is battling substance addiction, discrimination and a lack of resources. 

“Why would someone choose to live on the streets?” Martinez said.

Her point is that it isn’t anyone’s preferred choice. It’s an outcome that results from, usually, drug addiction.

“Yeah you’re gonna get high. You’re gonna laugh about it. But guess what? After that, you’re gonna be sick–and if you keep on doing it, you’re never going to stop,” Martinez said.

“Homelessness is a whole bunch of bullshit. You’re getting your stuff stolen. You’re getting physically abused, sexually abused, mentally abused. You’re hungry. You’re having to commit crime to get by.”

“You’re going to lose everybody. It’s bad,“ Martinez said.

According to the National Coalition to End Homelessness, 38% of homeless people are alcohol dependent and 26% are dependent on other illicit drugs.

While the weather in Albuquerque is starting to warm up, Martinez remembers how cold this last winter was.

She called it brutal and said people living on the streets lack the materials and resources to get through them. In fact, she contend, many of New Mexicans living on the streets during the harsh winters end up using drugs or developing alcohol dependency in order to to feel numb.

This can sometimes lead to death.

“My dad, he did drugs. He was in and out of prison and he died in our bathroom when I was sixteen,” Martinez recalled.

“I have battled with substance abuse since I was in middle school. Truthfully, the only time I have been sober, through my own will, through my own hands, has been… never,” Martinez said.

The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness states that over three thousand New Mexicans can experience homelessness– on any given day.

Junko Featherston is a half-Japanese New Mexican, born and raised in Albuquerque. She is currently a senior majoring in multimedia journalism and minoring in Japanese language. You can follow her on Twitter @UNMJunko