EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Migrant shelter operators on Wednesday urged their guests not to go out as a winter storm approached the El Paso-Juarez region.
“We’re trying to keep them from going out for their own health and safety,” said Martha Esquivel, a volunteer at Good Samaritan shelter near the Juarez mountains south of the border. “Many come from warmer climates, and we don’t want them to get sick or catch a flu or COVID and spread it to others or the staff.”
Overnight temperatures were expected to drop into the teens for the next two days as the cold front arrives bringing a wintry mix. Larger shelters like Good Samaritan have added central heating in recent years and regularly receive donated clothing and supplies from El Paso churches and groups like the International Organization for Migration.
But Juarez has almost two dozen smaller shelters and officials there were scrambling to protect migrants from Haiti, Honduras and Guatemala from the cold.
“As we know we have cold air coming and this building doesn’t comply with adequate climate control or sanitary conditions. We’re trying to prevent a situation here,” said Driving Garcia, coordinator of the Migrant Assistance Center as he inspected an improvised shelter in a Central Juarez church.
Garcia urged the migrants to go to a government-run shelter located inside a former gym, but some Haitian families were reluctant, having found hosts they trust. “I don’t want to go to a place with a lot of people,” said a Haitian woman who declined to give her name. Other Haitians said they recently found jobs in the area and don’t want to lose them by relocating.
Government officials called for transportation for those that were willing to leave and allowed others to stay provided the church did something about drafts in doors and windows.
At Esperanza Para Todos (Hope for All) shelter in West Juarez, manager Grissel Ramirez was looking for heavy blankets and winter coats for her guests.
“We have a great need because of the cold weather that’s coming,” she said. “We do get clothing donations, but it’s mostly blouses and shirts and a few sweaters, but no jackets. But our greatest need is just blankets because two of our bedrooms don’t have heating.”
Hope for All is located in a heavily trafficked migrant corridor known as Anapra, so Ramirez has seen the population swell at her shelter, which used to be a daycare center. On Wednesday, she pleaded with her guests to stay indoors for the next two days and shut down the makeshift shower in the backyard because it has no roof.
In addition to looking for wood or canvass to cover the hole, Ramirez was trying to secure additional food for her 120 guests. Sixty of the migrants are children, 40 are women and the rest are men.
Esquivel said Good Samaritan is aware of the needs of smaller shelters. She said she made a personal donation of eggs, tomatoes and other vegetables to Hope for All.
“We have well-known now and very blessed, but there are other shelters that are struggling. Whatever the problem, it’s not the fault of the migrants or their families. They just need help,” she said.