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Fort Collins church helps shelter migrants

Larimer County OEM said that 2 churches and the Red Cross is providing help to the City and County of Denver by sheltering 57 migrants for 7-10 days.

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — The first Christmas story has been on Pastor Eddy Hopkins' mind and it's not just because the holiday is coming up in a few days.

"There’s a part where Mary and Joseph are on the streets. They are called to go back to their hometown because of a census," he said. "So there’s this larger political reality that forces people to move, which is exactly what’s going on in this situation."

This story of Mary and Joseph reminded him of the migrants who have recently fled to the United States. 

"They need a place to stay but Bethlehem is just overrun with people. It’s just crowded and so they go to an inn and the innkeeper says, 'There’s just not enough room,'" said Hopkins. "I didn’t want to be the innkeeper in the story."

Credit: 9NEWS - Alex Castillo
"We’re not here because we’ve earned it," said Hopkins. "We’re here because of the kindness and generosity of our creator and so why wouldn’t help other people? I think that’s really the question is, 'Why wouldn’t we?'"

So when the Larimer County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) was looking for shelter for migrants, Peak Community Church answered the call. 

"I mean 'Fort' is in our name, shelter is in our name and sure enough this city was ready to shelter these folks," Hopkins said. 

The Larimer County OEM said they're providing mutual aide to the City and County of Denver, as migrants continue to arrive in Colorado. It's a temporary effort lasting just over a week to help alleviate some of the pressure Denver shelters are seeing right now. 

A total of 57 migrants from Venezuela, as well as other parts of Central and South America, are in Larimer County. The Larimer County OEM said two churches and the Red Cross are providing them shelter. 

After the week is over, migrants will either be traveling to their next destination or heading back to Denver. 

"Some of them are going to be heading to other parts where they have family, where they already have friends," said Hopkins. "But I hope some are able to stick around because I’ve made some friends and I’d like my friends to stick around.”

Hopkins said the community has shown up in full force to help.

"Almost instantly we had all the clothing donations we need," said Hopkins. "Now, we’re sort of just focused on specific needs."

He said his new Venezuelan friends have shared harrowing stories of fleeing their home country. 

"On foot for three months, ten countries... Family members who didn’t make it, who started off with them and now aren’t around," said Hopkins. "Some of them are escaping violence, some of them are escaping other forms of abuse and oppression and things that I cannot imagine."

But through it all, they've also had moments of joy in just the few short days they've known each other. 

"Some of them have never seen snow before and so when it snowed the other night even though it was so cold, they went outside and made a snowman," he said. "There was a lot of joy in that night."

Credit: 9NEWS - Alex Castillo

Hopkins said he hopes some of the migrants will be able to stay.

"We would be a richer community if they were able to settle here," he said. "Here are people who've been through a nightmare, a living nightmare and I see a lot of joy, a lot of strength, and I've just learned a tremendous amount from them."

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