The Salvation Army providing services to refugees in Texas
By: Philip Burn
At the request of the city of McAllen, Texas, The Salvation Army has been providing emergency overnight shelter, food and other services to around 100 refugees per night. Individuals and families coming to the Army had been successfully vetted and processed at the border and were awaiting transportation to approved locations in the U.S.
Since 2014, The Salvation Army in McAllen has worked closely with Catholic Charities, providing up to 400 meals a week to their Respite Centers for individuals who have been processed at the U.S. border. Recently, Catholic Charities and other non-profits in the city have been overwhelmed by the sheer number of people being admitted at the border, resulting in the emergency request for additional assistance from The Salvation Army.
The week of March 24, Catholic Charities requested that The Salvation Army provide 900 meals per day – a figure that was expected to rise to 1,500 a day the first week of April. These meals were in addition to dinner and breakfast for 100 people staying in a temporary shelter in the Army’s banquet hall.
“They come in with clothing that’s been worn for maybe several months, shoes that have been through water many, many times, and they haven’t had shelter in a long time,” Major Brett Meredith, Texas divisional business secretary, told an NPR reporter.
The Emergency Disaster Services team from Denton County in North Texas deployed to McAllen, and additional teams were being recruited to assist. The Salvation Army also was working with partner churches in south Texas to provide support to local staff and volunteers.
“This is the very first time that The Salvation Army here in Hidalgo County has had to house refugees to help with the overflow,” said Captain Stephen Correira, commanding officer in McAllen. “We serve in the name of Jesus Christ (for) suffering humanity, and we serve without discrimination.”
Buses transporting refugees were arriving at The Salvation Army around 5 p.m. daily. Dinner was served, and staff and volunteers worked to make the guests, including children and babies, as comfortable as possible.
Shower facilities and hygiene products were made available and were greatly appreciated by those staying in the shelter. After breakfast the next morning, the buses were loaded, and the daily clean-up and set-up began again in preparation for afternoon arrivals.
The week of March 19-26, the McAllen Salvation Army provided shelter to 714 refugees and was prepared to serve in this way for as long as needed. Additionally, The Salvation Army has had a mobile shower unit stationed at the Catholic Charities Respite Center since mid-February.
Meanwhile, in the Western Territory, the city of Yuma, Arizona, requested The Salvation Army’s help on March 28 providing food and shelter to migrant families in need who have permission to travel in the U.S. and were awaiting transport to their final host destinations. The Army in Yuma can feed and shelter up to 300 people per day.
Officials in Yuma noted a need for donations of non-perishable food, bottled water, snacks, clothing, hygiene items, sanitary wipes, laundry detergent and bath towels; baby formula, bottles, pacifiers and disposable diapers; and, for young children, stuffed animals and craft items like pencils, crayons and paper. Monetary donations also were welcome.
You can support the ongoing humanitarian efforts of The Salvation Army by making a financial donation at www.salvationarmytexas.org/mcallen.
Philip Burn is the divisional communications director for the Texas Division.