EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Three El Paso migrant shelters joined together to discuss the current influx of migrants in the community.
“The important thing to know is that we are now at numbers that none of us have ever seen before,” said Blake Barrow, director of the Rescue Mission.
Opportunity Center for the Homeless, Rescue Mission of El Paso, and Sacred Heart Church say they are all focusing on families with children.
“We have an ability to house close to 450 individuals between the three of us. That’s not enough. And one of the common threads that you’ve heard, all three, is we are focusing on families with children,” said John Martin, the deputy director for the Opportunity Center for the Homeless.
Martin said the migrants that can be seen in San Jacinto Plaza and other parts of Downtown El Paso are mostly single adults who don’t have shelter options.
Sacred Heart Church gave an example of how the number of people compares to what El Paso saw last December.
“In December, when there was a significant influx, we had 200 people in the shelter one evening. It is not something that happened for more than one day. Now we have been serving from 190 to 220 for about seven days,” said Mike Debruhl, the shelter director for Sacred Heart.
Debruhl adds that almost 100 percent of all the migrants are CBP applicants and are in the United States legally.
The Downtown Shelter Network, as the three shelters are calling themselves, say the majority of the migrants are from Venezuela, and many have children.
“The number of children were seeing is really mindboggling. We will have close to 100 kids that are less than 10 years old. These are folks, that many of them infants that have been carried in their mother’s arms all the way from Venezuela,” Barrow said.
The shelters say they need donations and volunteers, specifically asking for diapers.
The County of El Paso is working with the Downtown Shelter Network.
“We have again been working with these organizations here. We have contracts with each one of them and are helping to fund the sheltering of the folks that they just spoke to you about. And so I don’t want there to be any confusion about whether or not the County is sheltering people, because we definitely are,” said El Paso County Commissioner David Stout for Precinct 2.
Stout says the County continues to provide transportation for migrants to hospitality sites, the airport and bus station, as well as providing transportation to other parts of Texas.
However, Stout did say the City of El Paso and County could have better communication.
As we reported the City of El Paso is one step closer to purchasing Morehead Middle School with the plan of converting half of it into a migrant shelter.
The City of El Paso says the City and the Office of Emergency Management have provided shelter for nearly 7,000 migrants in the last nine days at hotels and provided more than 16,200 meals in the same time period.
Mayor Oscar Leeser sent a statement Thursday evening.
“In El Paso, we live the effects of our broken immigration system every day. As we all know, we have seen an increase in asylum seekers in recent days. Through our sheltering and decompression efforts, we have avoided major street releases, as well as avoided putting the burden of these efforts on El Paso taxpayers. In coordination on a regular basis with our local and federal partners, we will continue to address the situation as it unfolds, always keeping in mind our priority of the safety of our citizens, our visitors and the asylum seekers. And as always, treating each individual as we would like to be treated, with dignity and respect.”