by Carol Wagner, RDC
The Casa Alitas Welcome Center was begun by volunteers of the Tucson Diocese years ago, with current residence in a former state adolescent detention center. In small 8’x10’ rooms, with one concrete slab for a thin mattress, a sink and toilet, along with 2 cots, refugee individuals and families are offered safety and shelter. Three large rooms include areas:
1)to welcome, register and medically screen all those arriving
2)a room for eating and crafts for children, along with shower stalls
3)a playroom, showers and gathering area where 30 more cots can be added for overflow.
The center is home now to up to 160 residents each day…
Smaller rooms at Casa Alitas include storage space, a chapel, a doctor’s office, the administrative office, and a travel arrangement room where staff and volunteers research and assist refugees with travel plans to get to their “sponsors” throughout the US. Outside tarps create a used clothing/shoes store, and additional storage for donations.
Staff and volunteers welcome 10-60 arrivals each day, and send off other groups in cars and vans to bus depots and the airport. Refugees must move on new locations to sponsors or shelters, as they await court appointments for their asylum cases. Only 1/3 of all those we welcome and send on to their sponsors, will be granted asylum from the countries, poverty and violence they are fleeing. The rest will be deported back to their countries of origin.
QUESTIONS FOR PONDERING:
How can we respond individually and collectively as a Divine Compassion community, helping to open hearts and homes and lives to refugees seeking shelter and a home here in our communities? And here in our US?
What walls of division need to come down in my life, and in our lives, to welcome refugees who speak, eat, pray and live different from you and me?
What are my fears? What are my hopes?