Partnerships Enable Immigration Ministries to Offer Respite and Transportation Services
Updated, September 19, 2021
On Tuesday, July 27, 2021 the Frontera Collective – San Antonio Respite Center opened its doors as a day-time resource for people seeking asylum. Located outside of San Antonio’s downtown hub, the respite center will welcome individuals and families referred by ministry partners along the border who continue to experience high numbers of people requiring shelter, after being approved and dropped off by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
The Episcopal Diocese of West Texas and the Lutheran (ELCA) Southwestern Texas Synod established this center in close partnership with the Interfaith Welcome Coalition (IWC), San Antonio Food Bank, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the City of SanAntonio’s Department of Human Services, Catholic Charities – San Antonio, San Antonio Mennonite Church, and others. The Rt. Rev. David M. Reed, Episcopal Bishop of West Texas, and the Rev. Sue Briner, Lutheran Bishop of Southwestern Texas, blessed the Respite Center on Thursday, July 29.
The Frontera Collective – San Antonio Respite Center will provide day-time welcoming services for individuals and families including meals, assistance with travel arrangements, personal hygiene care, and transportation within Bexar County to the airport or bus station. At this time, it cannot provide overnight accommodations and is coordinating with local partners to provide overnight respite for travelers unable to secure same-day departure from San Antonio.
During the preliminary stages of opening the Respite Center, the Diocese utilized funds granted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Episcopal Relief and Development to purchase a 15-passenger van and provide safe transportation for families to the San Antonio bus station, airport, and to overnight shelter arranged by San Antonio partners. Phillipe “Richard” Cimilen was hired in June as a seasonal, part-time Driver for Immigration Ministries, in addition to the several volunteer congregants serving as drivers.
Since opening, the Frontera Collective - San Antonio Respite Center has welcomed between 50 and 100 people on average each day, and more volunteers are needed to help provide vital, humanitarian aid and sustain the ministry of the Respite Center through donated items. In particular, there is an urgent need for volunteers who speak Spanish or Haitian Creole to help the people seeking asylum coordinate their travel arrangements to join family members and long-term sponsors throughout the United States.
Monday through Sunday, volunteers and local church staff open the respite center’s doors at 9:00 a.m., serving individuals and families until 6:00 p.m. Volunteers help distribute food and clothing, facilitate shifts in the shower, guide families to cots for rest, and walk with people through the other stations at the center. Individuals who are interested in volunteering must be at least 18-years-old and may click here to receive more information.
In addition to its dedicated volunteers, the Respite Center relies on donations to provide basic personal items to the people it supports, including fresh undergarments, bath towels, shoelaces, socks, and others listed below. All people served at the center are involved in the formal, asylum-seeking process due to persecution, war, or violence in their home countries. They arrive at the Respite Center with limited personal items and only the clothes worn throughout their time with CBP. The opportunity to put on clean clothes after a long journey is profoundly restorative. Donated items may be dropped off at the Bishop Jones Center (111 Torcido Drive; San Antonio, TX 78209) Monday through Thursday, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Fridays until 1:00 p.m. Financial gifts can be made to support the Respite Center online, using the Immigration Ministries giving form at dwtx.org/give.
- New Undergarments, especially underwear (Men and Women’s Small, Medium, and Large; Boys and Girls' Small, Medium, and Large)
- New or Gently Used Clothing Items (All sizes and genders, for adults and children, preference for Small, Medium, and Large sizes)
- New Towels (bath size and wash cloths)
- Socks (All sizes and genders, for adults and children)
- Shoes (All sizes and genders, for adults and children)
- Men’s Belts (small, medium, and large)
- Backpacks (adult size, empty)
- Entertainment items for adults (games, puzzles, books – Spanish)
- Books, activities, and games for children (English and Spanish)
Click here to save a printable Needed Items List.
Click here to receive future calls to action regarding the Respite Center and other opportunities to serve with diocesan Immigration Ministries, through the Immigration Ministries Update, an e-newsletter sent every other week with ministry news, events, and prayer requests.
Update, September 16, 2021: Immigration Ministries Update: Volunteers are needed to help the Frontera Collective - San Antonio Respite Center as it prepares to relocate to a different location in San Antonio. This transition stems from the recent change in Federal policy and a change in the numbers of people traveling through South Central Texas on their way to sponsors throughout the country. Volunteers will help sort clothing, organize other donations, and pack items at the Respite Center for relocation to a more central San Antonio location. Click here to complete a volunteer information form.
*All people served at the Frontera Collective – San Antonio Respite Center are involved in the formal, asylum-seeking process due to persecution, war, or violence in their home countries. Customs and Border Protection (Border Patrol) partners administer COVID-19 tests prior to transporting them to non-profit organizations; families with a positive test must quarantine with CBP prior to the next phase of their journey.