I recently had several friends in Central Park reach out to request donations for the large group of Venezuelan migrants that have recently come to Denver. I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t watch a lot of news, and I actually wasn’t aware of the issue. Once they made me aware, I wanted to help spread the word about the issue through the Scoop and offer people 3 ways to help.
A quick aside, my parents took in a migrant in need from Mexico when I was in high school. He was the nicest, hardest-working, strongest person I ever met. Ever since that experience, I’ve bristled when anyone talks about migrants as people that are dangerous, lazy or looking to take advantage of us somehow. Through zero fault of their own, they’ve just been dealt a tough hand in life. They are looking to first of all survive and second to create a potential future for themselves and their families. Who wouldn’t do the same?
You can find 3 ways to help at the bottom of this post. And for those of you that were unaware of the issue like me, one of my friends wrote the blog post below to explain the situation. These migrants are in a serious time of need and as a community we’re often blessed with more than enough. What could you give that may not affect your life at all but could have a big impact for these migrants as we get into the coldest months of the year? (Maybe this is a good friends and family activity to get into the spirit of the season. And as always it’s great when kids are involved so they can see giving in action.)
Background on the Issue
Escaping economic crises, political turmoil, and social unrest, thousands of Venezuelan migrants have arrived in Denver seeking safety and a chance to rebuild their lives. The journey of migrants is often marked by hardship, resilience, and a yearning for stability. At times they’ve traveled across 8 different countries to get to the US border, lost all of their possessions, and landed in Colorado where they end up living on the streets in the coldest weather they’ve ever experienced. (See Venezuelan migrants share details of journey to Denver with young children.) While these individuals have triumphed over adversity to get to Denver, their journey and challenges are far from over. Many migrants, including children, are forced to live in encampments after their limited time is up at government-funded hotels turned into makeshift shelters. (See Migrants move to the streets after time at Denver shelters expires.) Migrants want to work but often cannot afford the $500+ work permit. They attempt to access government resources, but the city is overwhelmed by the unrelenting volume.
Today, we’re sharing insight into the challenges faced by migrants, shining light on the impressive efforts of local community members helping with the humanitarian crisis in our backyard, and providing guidance for how you too can help our new neighbors.
Challenges Faced by Migrants
Denver’s Venezuelan migrant population faces notable resource constraints due to a combination of complex factors such as:
- Forced and urgent migration leading to a lack of financial preparedness upon arrival
- Unfamiliarity with local systems and legal/administrative complexities making it challenging to access support services and find local housing
- Language barriers adding yet another layer of complexity to every step
Complicating the situation, city resources are unable to meet the needs of all migrants resettling in Denver despite many employees working overtime, picking up overnight shifts, and seeking additional federal support. The needs of about 300 new arrivals per day (on average) is simply more than city resources can address alone.
Impressive Local Efforts
What started out as one-off efforts to gather donations and deliver food to migrants in nearby hotels and camps has grown into a group of over 1,100 community members mobilizing grass root efforts and charting the way for more and more support. Local community members are:
- Ensuring migrants’ most material needs are met by organizing donation distribution events, creating “family adoptions”, and organizing meal trains.
- Channeling volunteer support through a volunteer directory that connects volunteers to areas of need based on their skills and availability.
- Connecting migrants to work opportunities through an employment directory (e.g. listing migrants available for cleaning, painting, cooking, childcare, yardwork, snow shoveling, Spanish tutors, etc.)
- Spotlighting migrant resources for those who may not know where to go for help (e.g. to get medical treatment, transportation, housing, etc.)
- Connecting migrants with financial and legal experts that can guide migrants in getting work permits, opening business bank accounts, forming LLCs, etc.
- Directing migrants to 501(c)(3) organizations with certain support resources available while also reducing the burden on 501(c)(3) organizations by clarifying what each organization can and cannot help with.
3 Ways You Can Help
Today, we invite you to explore how you can help. Some ways to get started:
- Join the Facebook group “Central Park & Park Hill – Venezuelan Migrant Support” and choose a way to help. Check out their “Events” and “Featured” tabs, which provide numerous actionable ways for you to help.
- Think of the migrant community for any job or labor needs you have. While it’s important that we ensure migrants’ basic material needs are met, it is also critical to ensure that they are employed and therefore empowered to support themselves long-term.
- Share this post with your network and encourage your friends and family to get involved and start anywhere they can to help.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and again, any support, even if it feels small, will really be helpful to our new Venezuelan neighbors. Friends who have been involved in this for months already, thanks for bringing it to our attention.