Catholic Charities has funds to operate Migrant Resource Center through September 2025

The funds come from a March federal spending package that awarded Catholic Charities $10.9 million to operate the Centro de Bienvenida Migrant Resource Center.

By Josh Peck, Texas Public RadioMay 6, 2024 9:30 am, ,

From Texas Public Radio:

The Catholic Charities Archdiocese of San Antonio, which operates the Centro de Bienvenida Migrant Resource Center (MRC), has been awarded enough new federal dollars to run the facility through September 2025, according to its executive director.

Catholic Charities was awarded $10.9 million as part of a March federal spending package that also included $3 million for the City of San Antonio and $2.4 million for the San Antonio Food Bank to serve the MRC.

The funding came from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Shelter and Services Program (SSP), which received $650 million in the bill.

Before the funds were awarded, Catholic Charities estimated it could sustain the MRC through Dec. 31 of this year.

Catholic Charities Executive Director Antonio Fernandez said the center will be able to maintain current services thanks to the funding, which Catholic Charities has not yet received.

“That means that we will be able to have food. We’ll be able to have coffee, clothes. We’ll be able to have legal services,” he explained.

He said in recent months the MRC had considered reducing security staff and closing down overnight to stretch dwindling FEMA resources, but now it won’t have to.

However, the MRC will not bring back its program of paying for plane and bus tickets for migrants, which it ended to reduce expenses. Fernandez said that program would come at the cost of more essential day services.

In April, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said it wasn’t clear how long the $3 million awarded to the city would last.

“When we make a request based on our previous experience, and that includes Catholic Charities, if the full request is not granted, we don’t know how long those funds can be stretched,” he said.

City staff prepared contingency funding plans for the MRC earlier this year, which included drawing from other federal grant dollars and the city’s own general fund.

District 10 Councilmember Marc Whyte has been the only member of the San Antonio City Council to suggest letting the MRC shut down, saying it draws migrants to San Antonio.

During the March city council meeting where the contingency plans were discussed, District 2 Councilmember Jalen McKee-Rodriguez said people would come to San Antonio no matter what — the only question for them was how to address that.

“People would be here, and they’d be sleeping in the airport, in the streets, in the cold and in the heat, and the question would be what are we going to do about it?” he added.

Rodrigo Cardenas is a Venezuelan who was staying at the MRC in mid-April. He fled his country after guerilla fighters killed his father and came looking for him. He said the MRC was a lifeline for him and everyone else at the center.

“Thank God,” he said in Spanish. “In this country there are places like this where one can go. Imagine if there weren’t places like this, we would all be in the street.”

The city has until June to apply for additional grant funding through a nationally competitive process.

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