Lutherans are on the frontline of sheltering the surge of unaccompanied immigrant children detained at the Texas-Mexico border.
More than 400 children this month will cycle through Lutheran Social Services of the South’s three transitional shelter facilities in Corpus Christi and El Paso, Texas. A fourth shelter, which will serve as many as 160 kids at a time, will open this fall in McAllen, Texas.
“For us, this isn’t a political issue,” said Evan Moilan, chief mission officer for the nonprofit, which is the largest provider of children’s residential care in Texas. “This is an issue of serving children in need.”
Since October federal agents have apprehended more than 57,000 unaccompanied children at the border. Through a contract with the federal government, the children receive care, education and health services at LSS shelters after fleeing countries including Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
Children arriving at LSS shelters range in age from 4 to 17, and stay an average of two weeks, Moilan said. While most are reunited with family members, some move on to foster care programs and other service groups.
LSS has provided care for unaccompanied children at the border for eight years at its Bokenkamp Children’s Shelter in Corpus Christi, Moilan said. The dormitory-style shelter, which serves youth ages 12 to 17, provides counseling, vocational training, education and spiritual care.
To help support the agency’s work with unaccompanied children, Moilan suggests:
• Prayers. Add LSS and the children the group serves to your congregation’s prayer concerns.
• Advocacy. Learn about and support the agencies in your area that serve immigrants and refugees. Children initially sheltered by LSS move on to communities nationwide and their needs continue in their new locations, Moilan said.
• Cash donations. Although clothing and other in-kind items might be well-intended, they are difficult for the agency’s staff to process, store and distribute. Gifts to LSS can be made at www.lsss.org.
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