Video: Interfaith Welcome Coalition Meeting June 2019

Replay the video below.

The Interfaith Welcome Coalition (IWC), a San Antonio volunteer community supporting immigrants and refugees, welcomed Carlos Marin, the new coordinator for the Migrant Overnight Shelter.

The IWC met at the First Presbyterian Church on Thursday, June 13, 2019 for a general meeting to celebrate the new coordinator of the overnight shelter program and discuss the latest in immigration news.

Carlos Marin was an immigrant from El Salvador himself in the 1980s and a Coast Guard veteran, where he worked as a medic and interpreter.

Migrants are dropped off from detention centers all across Texas, and the IWC finds out who will remain in San Antonio and who will continue on their journey to their final destination. They provide migrants who have already crossed the border but have a specific location in mind to move to with travel and supply-filled backpack to ease the rest of their journey. Those who remain in San Antonio often stay in the MOS temporarily, where they can find meals, shelter, and basic healthcare. The MOS has sheltered more than 10,000 people so far.

The MOS is in great need of volunteers to fill the evening shift, overnight shift, early morning shift, and shifts on Sundays and Mondays. The shifts usually require six to eight volunteers.

The greatest physical need of the migrants staying at the shelter is availability of showers. The community in attendance discussed several ideas.

Senior Pastor Eric Vogt of the Travis Park United Methodist Church offered showers at his church, but needed more volunteers to make it a possibility. Another suggestion included asking hotels to open a few rooms for shower use.

Right now, the greatest challenges the overnight shelter faces is the difficulty to keep a consistent routine. Additionally, hundreds of migrants from the Congo and Angola arrived in San Antonio the week before not speaking English or Spanish, but French and Portuguese. While English-Spanish bilingual volunteers are invaluable to the IWC, they would like to have volunteers who speak other languages.

Jean Claude, the President of the San Antonio Congolese Community, spoke as a guest at the meeting. The San Antonio Congolese Community is supporting migrants for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and their greatest needs include showers and ESL classes. Most of the 350 Congolese migrants who arrived this past week, they confirmed, have already moved on to their permanent homes. The most common destination was Portland, Maine, where there is a well-established Congolese community.

Sister Pat Connolly, member of the Advocacy and Education Advocacy Committee, discussed the need for education for migrants, which could lead to a path to citizenship or a DACA application. She also stressed the importance of using social media for advocacy, and wanted to expand their committee to social media platforms.

Director of Faith Community Involvement Mary Grace Ketner brought two short-staffed upcoming events to the committee’s attention. The first volunteer opportunity will by on June 20 at 10 a.m. at University Presbyterian Church. Second, the backpack-packing committee usually has plenty of volunteers, but the weekend of July 4 doesn’t have enough volunteers to fill the weekly needs.

This year, 16,224 backpacks have been made, a number that already exceeds last year’s total. 3,000 were filled last month alone.

Other needs by the IWC include lunches for the month of August and a location to act as a hospital ministry.

If you are interested in volunteering with the Interfaith Welcome Coalition, visit their website here.

Access the powerpoint with the slides used at the meeting here.

Watch the video of the full meeting below: