Monday, October 22, 2018

what exactly do we do at the Respite Center?

Laundry. Lots of laundry. At my first visit, we only had one shower for men and one for women. The second time, in September, we had a semitrailer with 4 showers each and two washers and dryers. Much improved but still not enough.

I'd arrive in the morning between 8 and 8:30 and start washing towels. We didn't have the luxury of washing clothes because every day we had 200 + people needing and wanting showers (they rarely had the opportunity in detention). Thus we had piles and piles of towels to wash, dry, roll, and layer in bins, laundry baskets, and so on.

While the dryers took their sweet time, we helped make soup and sandwiches. The soup was for lunch, the sandwiches we made for families and individuals to take on the next step of their journeys. Morning through mid-afternoon the families went in smaller groups to the bus station, about three blocks away, to catch busses to join family members in the US. All the adults except pregnant women are wearing ankle bracelets and carrying rechargers. When the families head out, we  grab snack bags and add sandwiches from the fridge. The snack bags are assembled late morning, before lunch, and have a minimum of 2 bottles of water and 8 different snack items--granola bars, fruit roll ups, pretzels, chips, crackers, whatever has been donated. So each family gets a snack bag for the journey.

Unless they are a big family....or are going far away, like New York or Washington state. Then they might get 2 or even 3 bags. Few of these families have any cash for the trip so these bags may be all they have to eat for several days as they change busses all over the country.

Then we serve lunch in an under-sized dining room that seats 24-30 people. We feed the children first--soup and tortillas or crackers. Then we feed the adults. Then we clean up the room.

and all the while we go back and forth checking on the laundry......

Three small cranes hidden on a shelf behind the dryers....

In the afternoon ICE drops more detainees at the bus station....and we escort them back to the center for soup, interviews, clothes, showers, an evening meal, and mats to sleep on. And the next day we start it all over again....

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