EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- The City of El Paso said Saturday, it hopes to activate a new emergency shelter in West El Paso within the coming days. This comes as the El Paso Sector has seen an increase in migrant border crossings over the last several weeks.
The city bought what is now known as the Community Readiness Center -- formerly Morehead Middle School -- for $3.8 million from the El Paso Independent School District, using federal funds remaining from the Covid-19 pandemic. The former school has been vacant for years.
A city spokesperson told ABC-7 that the Office of Emergency Management will also request federal funds for the long-term cost of the facility.
Officials said the new shelter can house at least 400 people, but the capacity could possibly increase to 500. They also said the shelter is not just meant for housing migrants; it is meant to be used as a resource in any emergency situation.
"For example, in 2016, we saw a pretty bad winter storm. In the past, we have seen flooding in some of the lower areas of El Paso. So this way, we can have a place where we can bring the community," said OEM spokesperson Enrique Dueñas.
The city also said part of the facility will be used by El Paso Animal Services for sheltering strays. However, officials said that part of the operation will not be going into effect for the foreseeable future. It will also be separate from the part of the shelter meant to house people.
In times when the facility is used to shelter migrants, City Representative for District 8, Chris Canales, said, "The facility will have controlled access. People will be able to enjoy the hospitality of the shelter, but they won’t be able to come and go or be allowed to roam the neighborhood. They will be able to check out from the shelter whenever they want -- again, they are free people -- but if they do so they will be transported elsewhere, not released onto the neighborhood streets."
One woman who lives near the center said she still has some concerns, but that overall, the fact that the shelter is located in her neighborhood is not a problem for her.
"As long as it's taken care of. We saw how downtown there were issues with passer-bys and no trash bins at first. As long as they take care of it, there should be no problem," said Sofia Martinez. "It's a good thing, because the building was empty and sometimes the alarm would go off because people would break in. So it's good it will be occupied."