El Paso’s humanitarian organizations need help as they aid migrants who are passing through El Paso, and with border crossings expected to rise when public health policy Title 42 lifts, community leaders are predicting a situation that will require all hands on deck.

One of the biggest unauthorized border crossings in El Paso history occurred earlier this December when thousands of migrants waded across the Rio Grande from Ciudad Juárez. For most migrants – who hail mainly from Nicaragua, Cuba, Ecuador and Dominican Republic – El Paso is a temporary stay until they can depart for their intended destination. By presenting themselves to immigration officials, they have the legal right to request asylum. People continued to cross the border throughout the week, but since shelters are at capacity, federal agents are releasing migrants into the streets, according to a city dashboard

Temperatures are expected to drop below freezing. An encampment has formed outside the Greyhound bus station, where individuals are bringing water, food, blankets and other supplies, including a mattress. After reports of limited access to public restrooms, the city set up several portable toilets in a nearby parking lot.

On Dec. 14, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott asked the state’s attorney general to investigate nongovernmental organizations which he claims are helping migrants illegally cross the border near El Paso. In his letter, Abbott did not provide any evidence supporting his allegations and local nonprofits accused the governor of trying to criminalize groups for providing humanitarian aid to migrants.

Despite the governor’s language, NGOs in El Paso are calling on people to support their work. Here are ways you can help:

Annunciation House

This volunteer-led organization provides shelter and support to migrants and refugees. The organization takes monetary donations and is in need of volunteers in particular. Short-term volunteers from outside of town must commit to a minimum of two weeks of service. Local volunteers do not have a minimum time commitment. 

Donate or apply to volunteer online.

Border Network for Human Rights

This nonprofit, founded in 1998 to support immigration reform, is asking for jackets in good condition. You can drop jackets off at the organization’s office from 9 a.m. at 2115 N. Piedras St. People can also make a monetary donation via GoFundMe, which will be used to purchase jackets, socks and items to keep migrants warm, according to the organization’s website.

Border Refugee Assistance Fund

The Catholic Diocese of El Paso and the Hope Border Institute, a faith-based organization, started aGoFundMe to raise money for migrant shelters. The Diocese runs five migrant shelters which are in need of volunteers.

Donate online or contact the diocese to volunteer.

El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank

Migrants on the streets are given sandwiches, water and snacks from an El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank truck on Tuesday. (Cindy Ramirez / El Paso Matters)

El Paso’s food bank needs volunteers to help assemble meals for migrants. The nonprofit is putting together breakfast bags, sandwiches and other food to distribute in Downtown El Paso and other locations. Volunteers will also be assembling kits with items such as baby wipes, diapers and formula.

Most volunteer work will take place at the El Pasoans Fighting Hunger warehouse in the Lower Valley at 9541 Plaza Circle. Other volunteer work will take place in the streets to distribute necessities. The American Red Cross is working with the food bank to supply cots, blankets and hygiene products.

Sign up for a 4-hour shift online and check back often for more shifts to open up. Those who can’t donate time can donate money.

Opportunity Center for the Homeless

This nonprofit organization serves people who are experiencing homelessness in El Paso, including migrants. The organization set up an Amazon Wish List of most needed items. People can also drop off toiletries, gently used clothes and food at 1208 Myrtle Ave. Unused shoes of all sizes, colors, and for any gender are in high demand.

Learn more online about what to donate.

Rescue Mission of El Paso

This faith-based charity and homeless shelter has an average of 200 visitors a day and 185 residents, according to its website. Donations needed most for residents at 221 North Lee St. include bath towels, laundry detergent, twin sheets, blankets, deodorant and Tylenol or ibuprofen for adults and children. Donations needed most for visitors at 130 N. Cotton St. include bar soap, body lotion, blankets, backpacks and towels.

For questions about donating clothes, unused toiletries and food, visit the Rescue Mission’s website

Sacred Heart Church

The oldest parish in El Paso is providing dinner and letting people spend the night in its shelter, located south of the Greyhound bus station in Chihuahuita neighborhood. The church is seeking volunteers every day during the following times:

  • 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. – welcome guests and show them to their sleeping areas; serve dinner; clean; coordinate showers; hand out toiletries, clothing and medicine
  • 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. – ensure men are separate from single women and children; work with night coordinator to address guests’ medical, travel and other needs
  • 4:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. – make coffee; set up serving station; cook and serve breakfast; clean and prepare to-go meals

Starting in January, the shelter will begin offering lunch. Those interested can contact the parish office during the day at 915-532-5447 to leave their information.

People can donate items such as coffee, powder coffee creamer, sugar packets for coffee, 8-oz cups, disposable plates/spoons/forks and napkins. Drop donations off at the parish office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 602 S. Oregon St. or Casa del Sagrado Corazón from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at 231 E. Father Rahm Ave.

You can also make a monetary donation via PayPal.

Disclosure: El Paso Matters CEO Robert Moore is a board member for El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank. Moore was not involved in the reporting or editing of this story.

Update 10 a.m., Dec. 19: This story was updated with the volunteer requirements at the Annunciation House.

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Priscilla Totiyapungprasert

Priscilla Totiyapungprasert is a health reporter at El Paso Matters and Report for America corp member. She previously covered food and environment at The Arizona Republic. You can follow her on social...