Week 1 in El Paso: shelter life with the poor

Trip Start Nov 25, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Casa Vides

Flag of United States  , Texas
Wednesday, January 10, 2007

My first breakfast at Casa Vides, the transitional shelter for undocumented migrants here in El Paso, I found myself seated across from an attractive woman who had lost her foot in a train accident during her border crossing. She left daughters aged 11 and 15 years back in Mexico, and I do believe that her grief from homesickness was greater than the pain of losing her limb. I realized that we'd better change the subject from her situation as both our sets of eyes filled with tears. So we shifted to discuss the onset of cooler weather (highs in the 40's and windy).

Living at Vides was a great welcome to El Paso for Paul and me, and we are grateful to the staff there (who we respect for their commitment and tremendous work ethic) and the other guests for allowing us to join them while we investigated our options in El Paso, looked for a place to live for the next few months, and started discovering what kinds of volunteering we could do. The guests are undocumented immigrants who, for various reasons, need a place to stay for longer-term. the shelter is structurally sound and very poor, having few resources and little peace and quiet.

We moved into a furnished studio apartment four miles north of the city's downtown because we didn't need a lease and wanted to get away from the urban environment a bit. While still on the city bus route, we are out in nature--surrounded by mountains and with a lovely vista of the city which extends well into Mexico and New Mexico. Tho small, we are so happy and feel so privileged and rich with our quiet and privacy. It is nice to move into a place after a couple months on the road now, and it is fun to get along just fine with very few possessions.
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