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Rose Among Thorns

New Beginnings women's shelter provides a lifeline to those with nowhere else to turn.

 

The women's shelter is really Rose Commodore's baby, built almost entirely by her own phenomenal legwork, armwork and backwork that she has expended in several minimum-wage jobs she's done simultaneously — working at a grocery store, being a greeting-card merchandiser, sleeping overnight at a nursing home, or cleaning houses.

This is what you do after getting two master's degrees in theology.

New Beginnings is called a "transitional home for women." It's a double-wide mobile home about 20 minutes south of Deming on which Rose made a down payment in 2008 at a bank repo auction in El Paso. The total cost will end up at $77,000 in mortgage payments over many years, she figures.

She planted about 70 trees on her property for shade, for their fruit, and as a windbreak. She used to water them all by hand until she got a grant in 2010 from Silver City's Wellness Coalition for drip irrigation and many other items.

Rose used to work so hard she would regularly land herself in the hospital with bronchitis and other problems, until she finished her car payments and cut her hours back a bit.

 

It's not always really clear whether I'm a part of her organization or a client. They've helped me get into town when my car broke down (several times) and given me a place to shower when my pipes froze. I've been on the board sometimes, worked at a fundraising event, and supplied food.

But I've never been a resident. The temporary residents are usually women who might end up on the streets without this place to stay. Their personal stories open up an intimate look into some of the issues going on in this part of the world.

One resident last fall was an Anglo woman from the southeastern US (she addressed us courteously as "Miss Rose," "Miss Carrie" or "Miss Margie"). This woman's Mexican husband was deported, along with 1.1 million other deportations of undocumented immigrants under the Obama administration, the highest number since the 1950s.

Illustrating the contortions some families go through after being broken up by deportation, this family has worked out an arrangement whereby he lives in Palomas, where there is little work. She and the kids live in Columbus so they will still be eligible for some disability payments for the kids and food stamps that will be shared with the husband.

 

In case there's a reader out there who thinks the social welfare system is flabby and needs to be trimmed, consider this case. Not long ago New Beginnings had a woman brought to them who was mentally handicapped. She couldn't even open a can. The shelter isn't equipped to serve people like her.

The woman had been abused by her husband, and "when I dropped something in the kitchen, she'd jump 10 feet in the living room," according to Rose. She had a criminal record, and so couldn't get food stamps. HUD (public housing) didn't have anything for her, and a doctor refused to see her because she didn't have Medicaid.

When a month was over, because of lack of funding, lack of facilities, or screwed-up laws, the woman was back with her husband. I hope mentioning this may wake someone up to get her out of that nightmare.

 

Last Christmas I ate at Rose's with a few other people, including a woman named Yessica and her sister. Yessica had gotten out of a Texas prison at Thanksgiving and come by bus to New Beginnings.

I brought some caramel popcorn balls and gave them to the two women. They were probably the only Christmas presents they got. Before I left, they gave me a couple of pretty nightgowns that needed to be washed, and later mailed me a thank-you card. I was touched.

Through New Beginning's help, Yessica got a job at Proper Foods and was driven to work by volunteers for months. She seemed to want to go straight, and everyone involved liked her.

By May she had saved up enough money to get her own apartment. Then Proper Foods suddenly shut down, and she got very depressed, says Rose. Yessica's teenage daughter, whom she hadn't seen in 10 years, came to visit her, and staff let her take a couple of weeks off.

Yessica never came back. She went AWOL after stealing a computer from the shelter. We were all very disappointed for her and by her. She needs to turn herself in as soon as possible. There's no other option.

 

For a few months last year, a middle-class Mexican woman named Norma stayed at New Beginnings. She was from Monterrey, the economic powerhouse of Mexico, which was just beginning to get violent. It's been one of the most violent spots in the country.

Norma came on a six-month tourist visa, partly because of her fear and partly to help a sister recovering from an abusive marriage.

She was the most responsible client Rose had ever had. She did more chores than anybody, and even ended up on the Board of Directors. She then lived with her sister and children and did some odd jobs to support her sister's $400-a-month income, which is not legal to do on a tourist visa.

A few months ago Norma went with her two teenage daughters to El Paso to purchase another tourist visa. The INS officials put them in handcuffs twice and swore at them. We couldn't believe someone like Norma could be treated like that. They were all deported.

In an e-mail Norma said, "Your country is within their rights to decide who [to] admit." But she added, "For me the most important thing was to protect my daughters, because here [it] has become very common that men kidnap young girls and they use them to work for criminals, to sell drugs and they also abuse in sexual terms, it is something terrible." We wait to hear from her.

 

What Rose would like me to emphasize is New Beginning's constant need for funding. They bring many clients, who often come with only the clothes on their backs, to get new birth certificates, which cost over $20, and then another form of ID. They can sometimes get free clothes, but underwear needs to be bought. Rose often pays for these out of her own pocket.

The women need food, as their food stamp situation may be messed up, and they usually require medicines or counseling. Gas for cars and payments for utilities are always essential. There's a perpetual need for volunteer drivers, and they could use a donated van.

 

There will be an opportunity to support New Beginnings at a rummage sale at Holy Family Hall in Deming on Oct. 13. A raffle with fantastic prizes will be sold at Peppers Supermarket and several other stores in Deming. Rose's number is (575) 544-0063.

 

 

Borderlines columnist Marjorie Lilly lives in Deming.



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