Lawyer Lisa Simpson is used to seeing the same women work their way through the criminal justice system. “They'd get released, and a month later they'd be back in the jail.” She saw a need—especially in Albuquerque, where programs for women are rare—to provide a way to help women get their lives back on track.
Simpson recoiled at the way women were spit out at the end of their legal journey. “They'd be turned out in the streets, often in the middle of the night, with no employment, no income, no place to live and no treatment,” she says. “It's no wonder they were back in the jail in a short period of time.” Simpson says she wanted to create something that specialized in assisting women who she saw repeatedly in the legal cycle.
She developed Crossroads for Women, which welcomed a new component this fall: The Crossroads Bazaar is a used-clothing boutique in Nob Hill that employs women with harsh histories.
Walking into the shop, customers are greeted by an array of clothing attached to neon price tags. A brightly painted sun adorns the corner of the tiny boutique.
Tina Padilla, a Crossroads employee, says the store is good for her. “It's a chance to build self-confidence,” she says. "Just being a part of the program is the best for me. It gives me self-worth.” Staff members share the sentiment that this is their “dream job” because they're able to help so many people.
The building on the corner of Central and Richmond was formerly known as Community Clothes Stores, which, like Crossroads, was a nonprofit organization. It used donations to supply clothes to those in need. When Community Clothes Stores closed its doors in July, Simpson jumped at the opportunity. Through her friendship with the owner of the previous store, she was able to snag the spot. “We just couldn't resist this little nook in Nob Hill,” she says.
The end result is a small shop carrying a wide array of used women's clothing, ranging from colorful dresses to blue jeans. The fixtures and the furniture were donated by large and small businesses alike, such as the now defunct Martha’s Body Bueno and the Sheraton Hotel.
Crossroads for Women is a nonprofit organization that operates as a small thrift store and housing service, employing and counseling women who have histories of criminal offenses, domestic abuse and substance addictions. “These women come from really harrowing backgrounds,” says Simpson. “One of the women that joined us was living in her truck with four daughters.”
They'd be turned out in the streets, often in the middle of the night, with no employment, no income, no place to live and no treatment.
Lisa Simpson, executive director of Crossroads for Women
Crossroads is unique in that it combines a variety of outreach programs into one. Crossroads owns independent apartment units throughout the city that house women. “There are other housing programs, counseling programs, and vocational programs here, but not all as one,” Simpson says.
The on-the-job training linked with on-hand case managers and counselors meets multiple needs. Kristina Daniels, the store manager and vocational coordinator, sees the payoff. “They are learning how to price clothing, which doesn't sound like a difficult task at first,” she says. “When they're learning their retail skills, their computer skills, we are here to help them.”
Women who work at Crossroads are often ineligible for other jobs because of criminal backgrounds and gaps in employment history. Crossroads offers job search and placement services to the women in the program and assists them with creating a résumé and offers referrals to their prospective employers.
The women can seek managerial positions within the store if they desire a career in retail, or they can be paired with jobs in which they use skills like computing or graphic design. “We want to support the talent and these skills that these women are coming to us with,” Daniels says, “and maybe kind of build upon those so that they can market these skills out to the community.”