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Many Refugees, God’s People, Arriving in Houston – Help Needed

Overwhelming numbers of migrants and refugees have been arriving at our doors—again. Several weeks before May 11, 2023, the date when thousands were expected at the border each day, more and more people have already been walking up to Casa Juan Diego asking for refuge.

We were already at capacity. We are over capacity. More people are arriving each day. People call from the border, from cities in other states to seek help for the relatively few of God’s people who have been able to enter the country.

Who Can Help With the Refugees Arriving?

 Over the past couple of years we at Casa Juan Diego have cried out for others in the Houston community to help with the anticipated arrivals. We wrote to our Bishops here in the Archdiocese about the already existing crisis. A number of meetings occurred, including people from nonprofits, county or city officials and employees and even congressional representatives with the purpose of preparing the community for the potentially large numbers of migrants who would come after Title 42 was lifted.

Not Enough Practical Help Has Emerged

In meeting after meeting, people of good will talked together about what to do to prepare. They didn’t know what to do without lots of new funding and a large location and staff. Some talked about the need for a long-range plan.

Catholic Charities, with the approval and encouragement of the Archdiocese, has responded with a very helpful program. Catholic Charities received FEMA funding for their transit center by the airport where they can assist new arrivals at Casa Juan Diego and others from the border to go to their destinations if they have family or friends to receive them. This project has helped to take some of the pressure off Casa Juan Diego as they assist our guests to travel. Magnificat House is also receiving some immigrants.

No other immediate solution has been offered locally to provide a place to stay to large numbers of people coming in. The Episcopalians are working toward shelter next year and conversations continue. In the meantime, it seems that people think that Casa Juan Diego can do almost everything. Not true! We are just a few, trying to respond as Jesus the Christ has asked us to do in Works of Mercy and bringing good tidings to the poor.

 As large numbers arrive, we hope the City and/or the County will provide a welcome center or a new shelter, setting aside at least a park where people can stay until housing becomes available for them.

Not So Easy – Often Overwhelming

There are too many who seek our help; we cannot receive them all. We can provide a temporary place to stay while people rest and begin to recover from the trauma of difficult and dangerous journeys, address health problems, provide a little help to get started with a new life in the United States. We can try to help people locate family members who were separated from them at the border, those who are lost (very difficult). We are a very few doing this work, although part-time volunteers and students help a lot. We need more full-time Catholic Workers who can make a commitment for at least a year or make the life of a Catholic Worker a vocation. We would not survive at all without the day-to-day practical assistance of the refugee guests of our houses who join us in the Works of Mercy.

We continue our work with paralyzed and very ill immigrants whom the government does not help. We cannot help them all. We distribute food to almost a thousand families a week, many of them newly arrived immigrants who have stayed in our house but are trying to survive now on their own. The Houston Food Bank, with the new ordering system now in a better place, is helping us with food. Our clinics continue to see patients each week. The San Jose Clinic and Harris Health help with referrals beyond the capability of our small clinics.

More people ask for our help than we can give. We cannot accept thousands in our houses of hospitality. We cannot help the whole city of Houston with their requests for help with rent. As Mark Zwick used to say, We have to allow others in the community to help also.