Small Place, Big Help

Who would have thought that being a director of a shelter for vulnerable people would be a life-risking occupation? It is in some parts of Juarez, near the US Mexico border. German, the administrator of Alto House, a shelter in Juarez, shared that the director of a nearby shelter had been kidnapped, and he had to pay a large ransom because the gang that had taken the shelter director thought the shelter had money. “Surely [they] think that we have a large income, or that we receive [lots] of money from organizations [but…]we do this to help. This is not a business,” German explained.

German volunteers his time to run the shelter. Photo by Haniel Lopez.

There is a saying, “Your life is not measured by what you have done, but by what you’ve done for others.” This sentiment drove German and the pastor of a local church to open Alto House, one of the smallest shelters in Juarez, in 2019. “We know we have a small place, but we want to help. We cannot just be spectators of this situation and see how migrants face many needs and difficulties,” German said. 

Unlike other shelters which received support from the Mexican government or other non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Alto House runs on private donations, many of which come from the local congregation. (Alto House is adjacent to the church.) When COVID-19 prevented people from attending church, the monetary support Alto House relied on slowed. German continued working his full time job while he donated his time to running the shelter. Brick by brick, German and his supporters remodeled the shelter, making it more comfortable for migrants.

We don’t hear as much about the situation at the US Mexico border since Title 42 was lifted, and Title 8 was reinstated. Although a federal judge has challenged the current administration’s asylum policy, the news cycle has moved on. Unfortunately, migrants, refugees, and asylees waiting in Mexico can’t move on as they wait for the too few appointment slots available on the CBP One App. Many people stuck waiting on the Mexican side of the border cannot find space in shelters. They are forced to sleep in public parks or on the streets, where they risk being murdered, extorted, or kidnapped. Organized crime and gangs lurk nearby parks, bus stations, and outside local shelters to prey on vulnerable people.

Over the last few months, some small shelters have closed because they lack funding or due to violence. When criminal gangs threaten the migrant community, locals working to help migrants sometimes wonder, “When will it be me? Are the danger, sacrifices, and struggles worth it?” For our community of peacebuilders–people like German– it is. He knows that as much danger as he faces, migrants face more, with fewer resources to support them. For him, helping vulnerable people is more important than the danger he faces. Even though Alto House is small, it offers big help because its staff lives the value that any individual can make a difference.

Your generosity lets vulnerable people know they are seen. Photo by Haniel Lopez.

You live that value too. That’s why you and our community of peacebuilders showed up with enough food to feed 50 people. Currently, 26 people are staying at the shelter, but German expects more to arrive in the coming days. Thanks to you, Alto House is ready to receive them with protein-packed meat, chicken, eggs, and tuna. We’ve brought milk to strengthen teeth and bones and vegetables for health-enhancing vitamins. There are also some hygiene supplies to restore a sense of dignity.

“Thanks for this donation; you don’t know how much we appreciate this help. We know that God is good when people like you step up and assist us. Please thank everyone who made this possible”. German told us. We are thankful that this small shelter keeps its doors open despite adversity. 

Our peacemaker’s T-shirt says it all: People matter most. Photo by Haniel Lopez.

We look forward to supporting shelters like Alto House, building peace with food donations, hygiene kits, and the care that makes people feel seen. Any individual can make this kind of difference. Why not join us? Our collective donations add up to big help, providing nutritious food and hygiene kits for those who have lost everything. Share this post to let vulnerable people know they are seen.