Congolese migrants walk from Travis Park Church to the Resource Center.
The City of San Antonio Migrant Resource Center will be closing due to low demand. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Citing a decline in the number of migrants passing through San Antonio, the City is closing its Migrant Resource Center, which had operated since March 30 out of a vacant storefront across from the downtown Greyhound bus station.

In June, the center helped shelter hundreds of migrants daily, providing thousands of meals. On Sunday, just three new migrants arrived at the center, a total of three received shelter, and five meals were provided, according to internal numbers tracked by nonprofits and the city.

With most asylum seekers arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border required to remain in Mexico while their cases make their way through the immigration system, the number of migrants passing through San Antonio and using the center’s resources has bottomed out, causing city leaders to prepare for the center’s closure. The Migrant Resource Center will close Friday, according to a press release sent Wednesday.

Gavin Rogers, an associate pastor at Travis Park Church, which provides shelter to migrants, said immigration numbers have been trending downward since this summer.

“Since August [the number] was trickling down and then when the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy took place, it dropped significantly,” Rogers said.

The center, which provided meals, medical services, travel assistance, hygiene, and help to secure shelter, opened this spring to aid migrants passing through San Antonio on the way to their final destination. In May, City Council unanimously approved $141,000 in emergency funding to help the San Antonio Food Bank and Catholic Charities, which were aiding the asylum seekers. Council again approved funding in its 2020 budget, allocating $333,000 for three months of funding to start Oct. 1.

In the past seven months, 32,000 migrants who have legally entered the U.S. seeking asylum, used the center’s resources. The majority were families with children from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. During the summer, large numbers of migrants came through from Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Haiti.

Most are in San Antonio a day or so waiting for transportation to family members or host families across the country.

About 1,200 City employees and 600 community members volunteered at the center in that time span.

San Antonio’s Interfaith Welcome Coalition will continue monitoring activity at the bus station and Travis Park Church, and the San Antonio Mennonite Church will offer shelter for anyone in need, Rogers said.

At this time, the City’s nonprofit partners are equipped to provide resources to migrants arriving in San Antonio, the press release said. Should migration numbers increase again, the City can re-engage with community partners to respond appropriately.

“It has been humbling to directly serve nourishing meals to our brothers and sisters in need,” said Eric Cooper, the president and CEO of the San Antonio Food Bank. “As we work to optimize our service model, we will shift to our indirect strategies to make sure no one goes hungry in our community, even when they are here for just a moment.”

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.