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Borderland shelters in need of volunteers as many face overcapacity

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- The Opportunity Center for the Homeless and the Annunciation House are two of the several shelters calling for more volunteers this week. This comes as the Borderland is once again seeing an increase of migrants in need of housing.

The Annunciation House's X account posted Saturday that the organization "remains in great need of volunteers who can commit to 2 full-time weeks." Officials said they're receiving between 400 and 500 refugees daily.

The rise in migrants who need housing is causing concern among some officials.

"I believe -- and I hope to be proven wrong -- that we're on the crest of a third wave," said John Martin, the Director of the Opportunity Center for the Homeless. "However, I think this wave is going to be a bit different from the other two. They're not going to form as quickly as they did. I think it's going to slowly build to the point of being a crisis."

Martin says The Opportunity Center's Welcome Center -- one of several shelters within the center's operations -- had almost 170 residents this week. He says the shelter comfortably houses 120.

According to Martin, most of the people the Welcome Center has had come in within the past three to four weeks have been migrant families from Venezuela.

"They have spent every dime that they have to be able to cross the border. And now that they've crossed the border, even though El Paso is not meant to be their final destination, they have no funds to be able to move out," Martin said.

Because many migrants find themselves stuck in El Paso, Martin says there is a greater demand for housing from these families and individuals. Therefore, he says, more people are staying for longer periods of time in Borderland shelters He says this is causing the shelters to go over capacity, with an average intake of 40 to 50 new faces a day at the Opportunity Center.

"The need is there. Volunteers are extremely helpful, but they need to sort of have the right attitude and they need to understand what they're getting into," said Martin.

ABC-7 spoke with one of the Opportunity Center's volunteers to understand exactly what it takes. Volunteer Steven Lee Johns said the work can be both heart-warming and heart-breaking, and volunteers have to be the kind of people that have a desire to help.

Johns' own desire comes from his learned experience. A disabled combat veteran who was in the Army for 21 years, he himself has lived on the streets. After rising up from hard times, he wants to help others build their own better lives.

"It's people who've been through those kinds of hard life things that are needed because they have an understanding of what it's like to to be abused in fleeing their their own home," he said. "They understand what these folks are going through."

Those with an interest in volunteering for one of the shelters can do so by visiting the Annunciation House's website or calling the Opportunity Center for the Homeless at 915-577-0069 and dialing either extension 272 or 238.

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Kerry Mannix


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