Helen Houston believes it was nothing short of divine intervention that led her to start a new non-profit targeting social injustice in all its forms in Hobbs.
The former president of the now-defunct Black Chamber of Commerce in Hobbs said after that body dissolved around 2019, she’d had her fill of non-profit work. But God, it seems, had other plans for her.
“I had no intention of getting back into the non-profit field,” she said. “But I woke up one morning and I kept hearing, ‘Helen, it’s time for you to go back to work.’”
This was early in 2020 and she tried to dismiss what she now says was a calling, but to no avail. Something kept “gnawing” at her, Houston said, telling her it was indeed time for her to go back to non-profit work.
“It’s time for you to start helping the community, helping your fellow man,” Houston said. “But I don’t want to do that. I just want to be a wallflower, have nobody see me.”
That went on for a month, Houston said, until she woke one morning with the name of the new non-profit in her mind: Justice House. A registered 501(C) 3 organization, Justice House will focus on “helping our neighbors and second chances,” Houston said.
“I just said, ‘This is meant to be,’” she said. “This is something needed in the community. Now, where do I start?”
Houston currently works in the human resources department for Hobbs Municipal Schools, helping district employees with their benefits and insurance. Her human resources background gives her something of a unique perspective, she said.
Justice House “is for everyone — it’s not about race, it’s not about gender, it’s about hope and education” Houston said. “It’s going to be about our community, it’s for our community.”
The Justice House approach will be two-pronged, Houston said. First, it’s partnered with several organizations to connect people in the community with services they need, including Antoinette’s Haven, which provides temporary housing for displaced or abused women and children.
The second prong is to teach people to be self-sufficient, to help them learn a better way, she said. Justice House is also partnered with the Women’s Economic Self Sufficiency Team, which offers educational services including financial literacy to help people work their way out of poverty.
“Working with other non-profits is essential, because we all have something to offer each other,” Houston said.
She’s also spoken with David Brown, assistant warden for programs at the GEO Lea County Corrections Center in Hobbs, about Justice House working with recently released prisoners to help them reintegrate into the community and prevent them committing additional crimes.
“We’re going to focus mostly on education, because that’s the key,” Houston said. “Ou mission is to support each man and woman who reaches out to Justice House by providing an opportunity for self-empowerment to enhance self esteem.
“A young man stopped me in the middle of a conversation I was having with a woman regarding Justice House,” she said. “He said, ‘Can I tell you what Justice House needs and what I need? We need hope. Simply hope.’”
And, right now, Houston has some hopes for Justice House. On Wednesday, she signed a lease on office space in the Don Garey Tower on North Turner Street in Hobbs and Justice House needs just about everything — office furniture, computers and anything else to make the dream a reality, Houston said.
The concept of Justice House is pretty basic, but nobody around Hobbs really conceived of it before, she said. And she thinks she knows why.
“I think it was meant for me,” Houston said. “I can only say that divine intervention that came last year, that troubled my soul and troubled my mind, was waiting for me to step up.”