SAN ANTONIO – As soon as it was announced last week that hundreds of migrant children would be sheltered at the Freeman Coliseum’s expo center in San Antonio many people have been asking how they can help.
The shelter is being run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They gave the following guidance to people who would like to help.
1) Volunteer with local organizations
HHS officials say people should never self-deploy to a disaster area or shelter. Instead, they should research trusted organizations that are operating in the needed areas.
Catholic Charities is the main organization in San Antonio that is providing and coordinating supportive services to the migrant refugees.
Over the weekend, volunteers with Catholic Charities unboxed and assembled cots for the teens to sleep on. They also sorted clothing and shoes and bagged hygiene kits.
Organizers with the charity expect there will be more volunteer opportunities ahead, as the organization has been asked to provide support around the clock.
“It could be setting up something, maybe, perhaps meal distribution, hygiene kits, possibly interacting with the kids in terms of social interaction and playing games or card games or assisting with activity books, things of that nature, said Catholic Charities Spokeswoman Tara Ford.
The charity says while they’ve already had hundreds of people interested in volunteering, they are still looking for helpers. To qualify, a person must be over 18 years of age and must pass a background check. Spanish speakers are preferred.
Catholic Charities has set up three 8-hour shifts -- 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., and & 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. -- to have coverage for 24 hours. If participants cannot work a full shift, they are still able to volunteer.
When the children leave the shelter at Freeman, if they are not reunited with family members, they could be transferred to state-licensed local facilities including St. Peter’s and St. Joseph’s and Seton Home. Those organizations have information for volunteers and donors on their websites.
2) Cash is Best
HHS advises that cash donations to recognized disaster relief organizations are the fastest, most flexible and most effective method of donating.
“Organizations on the ground know what items and quantities are needed, often buy in bulk with discounts and, if possible, purchase through businesses local to the disaster, which supports economic recovery,” officials said.
During any emergency, the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster is a good resource to find trusted organizations.
3) Other Donations
Before you collect or deliver donations during any disaster or shelter situation, HHS says it’s important to know what is actually needed.
Here is their guidance on donations:
- Used clothing is never needed.
- Bulk donations are best. Pallet loads of a single item, sorted, and boxed.
- Timing is important. Too soon or too late and no one wins.
- Transportation needs to be worked. How will it get to where it is needed?
For the migrant shelter, donations would be handled through the supporting organizations listed under the volunteer section above.