News Release

How the Church of Jesus Christ Responds to Needs of Migrants

Church provides aide to migrant families at US/Mexico border

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has joined local faith and community partners in Houston to provide short-term respite for migrant families who have been cleared at the border and need shelter, food, hygiene facilities and other assistance.

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The Family Transfer Center is owned by the National Association of Christian Churches (NACC) and is the fruit of a collaboration with NACC, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Catholic Charities, YMCA International Services, Texas Adventist Community Services, Houston Responds and the Houston Food Bank. These organizations will fund and staff the facility.

“This center is an example of the tremendous good that can result when the community comes together as one to offer resources to ease the burden of others,” said Elder Carlos Villarreal, an Area Seventy in Texas. “We want these migrant families to feel safe, welcome and comfortable as they continue their journey.”

The facility, located at 16605 Air Center Blvd in Houston, will serve those who have been cleared at the United States/Mexico border. Individuals will arrive at the center by bus and receive the help they need.

“I call it Bethlehem. It’s where God intended these people to come. It’s a rebirth. They’re being nurtured in order to move on,” said Elder Villarreal, director of the Family Transfer Center.

The facility will be staffed by volunteers and will operate for at least six months. It has the ability to assist up to 500 individuals a day. In most cases, migrants will stay at the building for 24 hours while they make travel arrangements to reunite with family and sponsors.

“We are all about welcoming the stranger. That is what God calls on us to do,” said Betsy Ballard, communications director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

Urvaniti Stephanie Lamaur of Haiti was staying at the center on Monday with her twin sons after traversing Central America, mostly on foot. Speaking through a translator, she told of how they almost drowned in Nicaragua. The family has received clothing and food at the facility and hopes to meet up with relatives in New Jersey soon.

Charlene and Brent Lee, originally from Idaho, are serving as humanitarian missionaries at the center.

“For people coming through, they need hygiene items — sweatpants, T-shirts or some kind of shirts — and the kids need to be outfitted about the same way,” Brent Lee explained.

You can sign up for shifts on the Volunteer Houston website. All volunteers will undergo background checks.

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