St. E’s Employee Honored as State’s Best
Edward Archuleta counseling a client at the Men’s Emergency Shelter.
“He’s a miracle worker.” So says Paige Kitson, street outreach program director for Youth Shelters & Family Services, when asked why she nominated Edward Archuleta for New Mexico 2017 Case Manager of the Year. “He is warm and welcoming to clients, down to earth, easy to build rapport with, extremely helpful, incredibly organized and knows every resource in Northern New Mexico. He handles crisis situations with grace, is always fair in his decisions and is such an asset to our community and its homeless members.”
Edward, case manager at St. Elizabeth’s Men’s Emergency Shelter, received the award from the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness this October. Self-effacing as always, “it’s quite an honor” is all he would say about it.
Others are not so reticent. “We recognized him for his many years of service, calm demeanor, expertise connecting people to the services they need and great patience working with a wide variety of people with a wide range of problems,” says Hank Hughes, executive director of the coalition. “It’s not an easy job.”
Maria Lopez, program manager at the Men’s Emergency Shelter, seconds this assessment. “Edward truly deserves it,” she says. “He goes the extra mile for all his clients, talking regularly with them, advocating for them, even transporting them to appointments if necessary. He continually encourages them to keep working on their goals and stays on top of everyone’s individual situation. He knows all the community resources available and collaborates extremely well with case workers at other agencies on their behalf.
“Many of our guests say that if it weren’t for Edward’s perseverance, they would not have had the courage and wherewithal to reach their goals and end up housed,” she continues.
Edward has been involved with St. Elizabeth since its founding in 1986. “I came by one afternoon to make a donation, asked Sister Shirley (the first executive director) if she needed help and ended up staying to 7 am the next morning,” he recalls. “I helped make dinner, ate with the guests and then ended up talking all night with a suicidal 17-year-old the police dropped off. I suppose I was successful because I ran into him a few years ago.”
Following that, Edward was the shelter’s volunteer resident manager from 1986 to 1987, a front desk volunteer from 1990 to 1998 and a member of its Board of Directors from 1990 to 1996. At the same time, he worked as an assistant to Secretary of State Stephanie Gonzales and then project director of 1,000 Friends of New Mexico, an environmental group. “Then I got very ill from toxic mold poisoning in my condo and came close to dying,” he says. “Throughout my sickness, a little voice in my head kept telling me to go back to St. E’s because that’s where I was supposed to be. When I recovered, I came by and asked Maria if there were any jobs available, and she said ‘can you start tomorrow?’”
Returning in 2010 as an intern, Edward says he “started at the bottom” but soon moved up to case manager where he is today. He meets all the guests when they arrive at the shelter, assesses their condition and needs, and finds out what brought them to St. Elizabeth. Then working together they create an Individual Service Plan, setting attainable objectives and goals, including finding housing. He helps them get IDs and other needed documents, enroll in Medicaid and then make medical appointments to address healthcare issues, find work if they’re able and, if not, help them get disability benefits.
“My goal is to get them off the streets and into housing, and we’re successful with 45 to 50 percent of our guests,” he says. “But our biggest challenge is the lack of affordable housing in Santa Fe. If you’re on disability and getting the average payment of $700 to $800 a month, it’s all but impossible. So I refer these guests to Life Link for housing vouchers if they qualify.
“Our other main challenge has become the growing age and infirmities of our clientele. More and more we’re sheltering older and sicker individuals, both physically and mentally, who have few resources and are unable to care for themselves. They really need to be in nursing homes, but again there’s a huge lack of such beds for those on Medicaid.”
Still even with these difficult challenges, the job has its rewards. “Just to see someone get off the streets, back on their feet and in their own place gives me great joy,” he says. “It’s why I plan on doing this until I retire.”
This article was originally published in our Winter Newsletter 2017. To read our latest newsletter, click here.