DENVER — The city of Denver said in an update that about 600 migrants have come to the area in recent months.
The city released a breakdown of how the migrants are currently being accommodated:
- 153 are currently being accommodated in the city’s emergency shelter.
- 48 have been relocated to a church-run shelter site.
- 52 additional migrants arrived at local homeless shelters overnight.
- 35 migrants are currently preparing for reunification to connect with family or friends and transitioning out of the city-managed emergency shelter.
The City and County of Denver activated its Emergency Operations Center and Joint Information Center Thursday to help with the response.
"The last week has been a reality check for all the immigrant community and for the people who work with the immigrant community,” said Mayra Juarez Denis, executive director of Centro Humanitario, a non-profit advocacy group for immigrant workers. “It was a real effort for organizations to start mobilizing but also a reality check that we’re not ready yet for that.”
Juarez Denis said she met and spoke to many of the migrants housed in different shelters around the city. She said all of them told her they came to Denver seeking a better life after unrest in their home countries, mainly Venezuela. She said the migrants told her they wanted to find work and start supporting themselves.
“What I heard is they want a job,” she said. “They want to start again. They want to live with dignity – not to become a burden but actually integrated into the community.”
Metro Denver’s job market shouldn’t be an obstacle.
“I think the jobs are there but also we haven’t been good enough about communicating between the employers about the talent we have and what kind of workforce the immigrant workforce and provide,” she said. “We need to create a pipeline where we train people to develop even more of their talents and then they can supply this demand from in employers in all these different areas.”
The housing market is another challenge. Juarez Denis said Denver’s affordable housing shortage won’t make it easy to find places for migrants to stay. She said the city will have to rely a lot on religious organizations and non-profits with access to property and funds to help people.
“There is space for institutions that have been working with migrants and for the city to have a plan of action because we cannot have them in rec centers forever,” she said. ““If we invest in this housing for now, long term this workforce is going to become… this is an investment.”
Juarez Denis said the most important thing anyone helping migrants can do right now is listen to their stories and their input.
“When they told me that they arrived, I didn’t say, 'hey this is what we have to do'…I said no, I have to go and listen to them,” she said. “So, I went and talked to them face to face.”
According to the mayor's office, the migrants chose to come to Denver and were not sent here by any government entity.
“Denver is a welcoming city, and we have a strong history of leaning in to assist anyone who is clearly in need,” Mayor Michael Hancock said in a statement. “We have an urgent need for more space to shelter these individuals, and we’re calling on our local organizations to let us know if they can help.”
The city has established a drop-off location for physical donations at Iglesia Ciudad de Dios located at 5255 W Warren Ave. in Denver. Donations are being accepted on Tuesdays and Wednesdays between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.
The city released a list of needed items, and noted that the list could change based on supply and demand:
- Coats (men’s S and M, women’s M)
- Pants (waist 30-33)
- Winter apparel (hats, gloves, scarves, boots)
- Children’s clothing for ages 10 and younger
Overall, the city said there is a high demand for new clothing for adults sizes small through large, with a special need for medium-sized clothing and winter weather clothing.
The city is also asking local faith-based groups, non-profits and private sector partners to reach out if they are able to support its efforts by contacting the Emergency Operations Center at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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