EL PASO, Texas -- The director of Annunciation House said its largest migrant shelter, Casa del Refugiado, will be closing this summer.
Ruben Garcia told ABC-7 the shelter has become too difficult to maintain due to the lack of volunteers.
Garcia citing the pandemic as a major factor that led to the shortage of volunteers.
"People say many of your volunteers are older people, some retired, etc. They're more vulnerable to COVID, etc. I think that's clearly a part of it," Garcia said. "I think that the pandemic has caused people to take a step back and reevaluate how they use their time and how busy they stay, etc. I think that's another part of it. But it's become a big, big issue, and not only here in El Paso, but along the entire border."
The closure comes as the lifting of Title 42, the pandemic health order that expels migrants back to Mexico, is still unclear. Despite that health order, the number of migrant crossings are rising. Garcia said shelters see close to 3,000 migrants, coming from countries that don't fall under Title 42, a week.
Another reason for the closure is maintenance. Garcia said the 135,000 sq. ft. warehouse is need of too many repairs.
Garcia said he had hoped the city or the county would have considered taking over operations at the shelter, but that never happened.
City and county officials along with the Office of Emergency Management have had conversations about how they can alleviate some of the burden of non-governmental agencies like Annunciation House. Currently city employees do volunteer at the shelter. The county has not finalized any plans yet, but discussions about creating a processing center have been held.
When asked if the closure could impact migrants in anyway, Garcia stressed that only that shelter will close and not operations entirely. He added that the goal is to get more hospitality sites up and running before Title 42 is lifted.
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