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McAllen city officials to help relocate Respite Center

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Respite Center in McAllen (Source: KGBT Photo)

McAllen city officials are looking for a new home for the Catholic Charities Respite Center, one day after the city commission voted re-locate the facility.

On Monday, the city commission denied a conditional use permit that would allow the Respite Center, a temporary shelter for migrants and asylum seekers, to continue operating out of Hackberry Street.

The decision came after officials heard from residents who opposed the center’s location, citing city coding violations and safety concerns.

“We didn’t disagree with what they do,” said City Commission Member, Omar Quintanilla. “We disagreed with the location where it is being done.”

Quintanilla was one of the commission members who voted to deny the conditional use permit for the center. But said the city leaders are now looking into finding a solution.

“We really feel like we are partners, the city and Catholic Charities, in trying to help the immigrants while they are here on a short stay as they go somewhere else,” he said.

McAllen Mayor Jim Darling echoed that support.

“We want to make everybody happy,” he said. “We will work very hard to get a new location and I think we will accomplish that.”

The city gave the center 90 days to relocate. Darling ordered the city manager to provide the city commission with a progress report every 30 days until that deadline.

Meanwhile, Sister Norma Pimentel, who runs the Respite Center, welcomes the help from city officials.

However, she dismissed any claims that the people who the facility serves pose any safety risk to people in the McAllen neighborhood.

“Half of the people who are at our center are children and parents who are tired and who are in distress because of their long journeys and they just need help,” she said. “If you get to see them, you realize you have nothing to worry about.”

Pimentel said she had invited the surrounding neighbors to visit the center. However, residents declined the invitation.

Pimentel said the center has received an outpouring of support from people locally and nationally, many offering to help the Respite Center with the move.

Right now, the Respite Center is one of the few places asylum seekers who are released by border patrol can go.

Mayor Darling said the issue of temporarily housing migrants who pass through the area a “federal issue” for which the city is responsible.

“We are going to remain strong partners with Catholic Charities,” said Darling.

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