Program focused on breaking incarceration cycle receives $1M in federal funds

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A local nonprofit recently received $1 million in federal funding to support formerly incarcerated women to get their lives back.

The nonprofit is ‘Crossroads for Women’ and the funding comes at a good time as they’ve seen an increased need.

"We saw an increase in behavioral health needs, an increase in relapse and, especially in Albuquerque, we’re seeing an increase in fentanyl use," said Cory Lee, of Crossroads for Women.

Before the pandemic, Crossroads was helping 350-to-400 people. Now, that number has doubled.

"If we don’t have resources like Crossroads, then we will see more people who are dealing and navigating mental health issues and not having access to services," Lee said. "More people who are navigating substance abuse issues and more people navigating homelessness."

All of these obstacles can lead to people ending back up in the justice system, which Crossroads works to prevent.

"We provide a safe place where women can come and say, ‘This is what I’m dealing with,’" Lee added.

At Crossroads for Women, 100% of their clients were once incarcerated.

"Many of the women, while they’re incarcerated, family members took care of their little ones – and so navigating, ‘How do you slowly, successfully and healthily transition back to being the primary caregiver?’," Lee discussed.

It’s one of many services they offer as they also provide everything from clothes, to a hot meal, to mental health counseling, job training and a path to permanent housing.

"We’re here to go at their pace, meet them where they’re at," Lee stated.

Over the last 25 years, they’ve been able to do that. However, with increased demand, Crossroads for Women also needs funding to help more people.

"There are a lot of pathways that we’ve seen success there," U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich said. "There hasn’t been enough funding for those pathways and we really wanted to help fill that gap as much as we could."

Sen. Heinrich serves on the Appropriations Committee and helped secure $1 million in funding for Crossroads.

"I think there’s a pretty bright line between violent crime and the necessity of incarceration for people who are a danger to others – and then taking people who’ve fallen into criminal activity or in particular into addiction and getting them to a place where they’re actually benefiting society; where they’re housed, where they’re holding down a job and where they’re part of the solution, rather than part of the problem," Sen. Heinrich discussed.

Most of the funding is expected to go toward the south wing of the building. It’s about 15,000 square feet. By the end of the year, it’s set to house up to 30 women, give them a common living space and let them access resources right there at the site.

"Our goal really is to help women navigate the system but also create systems change,"

The funding will also help cover costs for women who may not meet certain criteria for specific programs. For example, some donations require those who qualify to be put on probation or parole, to have been to jail three times or been in the mental health unit.

"We’re seeing a lot of people that don’t want to go into the mental health unit and so they don’t meet those criteria – or maybe they’ve only been in jail, like once or twice,"

However, this doesn’t mean they don’t need help now.

Sen. Heinrich will be visiting the facility April 19. Crossroads for Women isn’t the only organization getting federal funding and we will discuss others working to break the cycle of violence