Conrad Chavira is an invaluable part of our staff at Joy Junction. He is our chief of security.
He recently told me about a typical day. His shift is from 3 p.m. till 11 p.m., the busiest time of the day for Joy Junction and most shelters.
Once he arrives, Chavira ensures the volunteers assigned to security and the guard shack are in place, and performing their duties as they have been trained.
He is responsible for approximately 20 volunteers who are assigned to the security of our campus. A major duty for Chavira is to train these individuals in a job skill, so they have a better chance of obtaining employment when they complete our program.
Another important task is to assist the on duty resident services supervisor.
He helps with inspection of our life recovery program participants’ living areas. “With over 30 program living areas on our campus, it can be time consuming. As the shift supervisor inspects for cleanliness and fire hazards, I search for contraband.”
Once the living quarters are inspected, it falls to Chavira to check the outer perimeter of our 52 acre property, where there are many places to hide from the untrained eye.
“I make sure we don’t have any squatters camping without our knowledge,” Chavira said.
He added, “We have several buildings on property being used for storage and some that are vacant. I conduct security checks to make sure no one has broken in. I make sure no trespassers are sneaking on to our property … ”
Chavira said he is a “ hands on” supervisor, and believe in leading by example. He said his many years of working as a corrections officer at the Penitentiary of New Mexico in Santa Fe paid off for certain aspects of this job.
Always a kind soul, Chavira said dinner time at Joy Junction is an enjoyable part of his day.
Chavira added, “It is wonderful to see so many families enjoy the wonderful food served at Joy Junction. My job is to maintain order while food and drinks are being served. I want to make sure the children are fed and we have enough drinks to go around. The residents know there is no fighting, arguing or running when Conrad’s on duty.”
When guests arriving on property legally, they are searched for alcohol and illegal drugs. Weapons are often confiscated as well.
Chavira said, “I train the security volunteers on different techniques in searching for contraband.”
Chavira also runs a background check on new guests. “When new guests arrive on property, I search their records for any criminal activity that precludes them from staying at Joy Junction. In certain cases, it is my job to advise an unwelcome guest that they must leave and not return. It is very important that I ensure the safety of all our guests and our staff members.”
Another part of Chavira’s duties as chief of security is to administer urine analysis drug tests to programmers and residents. He also gives blood alcohol tests as well.
“The sobriety of all our guests is very important to the success of our programs.”
The day continues.
Throughout the evening, Chavira stays busy walking around the grounds making sure none of the shelter guests are loitering in restricted areas.
He added, “It is my job to make sure male and female guests are not fraternizing with one another. I make sure the children are close to their parents and no harm comes to them.”
Chavira also monitors surveillance cameras. (In addition, I periodically monitor the cameras via an Internet feed to my office at home).
He said, “These cameras are a very important tool in a facility such as ours. I monitor and on occasions review activity on the cameras. When purses are stolen or property is misplaced, I am able to review the video feed and conduct investigations.”
Chavira’s many years of working as a police officer and a private investigator have come in handy.
He has on occasion conducted training for staff members as well, and put together a policy on how to deal with an “Active shooter” situation.
He said, “Unfortunately in this day and age we must be prepared for anyone who tries to harm our guests and staff.”
I have occasionally asked Chavira to conduct investigations where staff may be involved.
On one occasion after viewing the security cameras at my home, I asked him to return to property because of what looked like some funny business taking place in our kitchen.
Joy Junction cannot afford to lose any food donations. All of our donated food must be accounted for and prepared for our guests to eat. If food is stolen or misdirected in any way, it is (quite literally) taking food out of the mouths of our families and their children.
Chavira’s actions and professionalism that night helped us solve what we learned had been an ongoing issue.
Chavira also periodically helps our resident service staff.
He said, “On several occasions I have been asked to cover for a supervisor on sick leave or on vacation. The supervisor has a very stressful job, and I am always willing to help.”
Chavira said he enjoys working at Joy Junction, and is proud to be part of the almost three decade old ministry.
He concluded, “It has changed my life in so many ways and has made me a better person. It is a great feeling at the end of the day to know that I may have helped someone one way or another.”
Thanks, Conrad. We appreciate your commitment.
Photo captions: 1) Conrad Chavira. 2) Jeremy and Elma Reynalds on their wedding day.
About the writer: Jeremy Reynalds is Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, a freelance writer and also the founder and CEO of Joy Junction, New Mexico’s largest emergency homeless shelter, www.joyjunction.org. He has a master’s degree in communication from the University of New Mexico, and a Ph.D. in intercultural education from Biola University in Los Angeles. His newest book is “From Destitute to Ph.D.” Additional details on “From Destitute to Ph.D.” are available at www.myhomelessjourney.com. Reynalds lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with his wife, Elma. For more information contact: Jeremy Reynalds at email@example.com.
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