EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The City of El Paso is one step closer to purchasing Morehead Middle School from the El Paso Independent School District with plans to convert it into a shelter.
The EPISD board voted on Tuesday to sell the middle school property to the city.
Mayor Oscar Leeser says the plan is for half of the property to be an animal shelter for El Paso Animal Services and the other half a shelter for migrants.
The mayor explained that the two would be completely separate but people staying at the shelter will be asked to help walk the dogs. There are also plans for a public dog park on the property in West El Paso.
“Right now, we’re using a lot of hotels. And so, we would like to have something that’s permanent. We have talked with the federal government, and we’ll be able to use federal funding to be able to redo the building,” Leeser said. “The animal services area will be paid for by money that was set up in the budget.”
Leeser says he also wants shelter space in case of an emergency in the community, like flooding.
El Paso is seeing an influx of migrants and Leeser said close to 1,900 people crossed the border illegally on Tuesday. The mayor said 4,500 people would have been released onto the streets of El Paso by Border Patrol in the past week, but the city put them up in hotels.
“Those are numbers that are very concerning to us, that’s why Morehead is so important to us,” Leeser said. “In the last seven days, the city’s been asked to what we’re going to do street releases, that the Border Patrol is going to street releases.”
The mayor says El Paso has federal funding that will run out by the end of the year if not used.
The City of El Paso had leased Morehead and Basset middle schools from EPISD and converted them into shelters.
Leeser said those shelters are no longer open following the passing of a bill that would restrict schools whether they’re open or closed, to be used for sheltering migrants. The Schools Not Shelters Act, however, only passed the House in July.
Leeser did not say what the total cost for the purchase of Morehead would be but said the next step is for it to go in front of the El Paso City Council on Monday.
On Wednesday, migrants could be seen in Downtown El Paso, some spending the day in San Jacinto Plaza.
“The word spreads that one can come here to the plaza to get some rest and the kids can release their energy, run, and jump for a while. That way when we go back to the shelter, they’re calmer,” said Alva Maria, of Venezuela.
She said she is spending the night inside the shelter at Sacred Heart Church but that there’s not enough room for everyone.
“The women with children only, not the men. The men must find where to sleep. Some of them sleep here at the plaza, others find alleys close to the shelter,” Alva Maria said.