by Diane Haines
On May 6 the Mayflower Immigration Team (MIT) received an email from The Advocates for Human Rights asking if we would consider housing immigrants who have been released from detention centers either in our church or in the homes of our members. With the support of the Leadership Team, we began to plan for short-term housing for one or two released detainees in an area of the church that would meet the needs of the guest(s).
Under the leadership of MIT member Josephine Fernandez, a COVID risk management policy was established for our guests and our hosts. We also began to seek out volunteer hosts to staff this 24/7. Diane Haines took responsibility to coordinate this. Each day was divided into four time zones. We had about 22 people volunteer to be hosts. Several members of the Young Adult Group volunteered to help out. Two members of other parishes immediately volunteered. We were off to a good start. However, as the weeks passed, we were unable to find additional volunteers, especially for the overnights shifts.
Gretchen Griffin from MIT and the Hot Dish Ministry began to seek out volunteers to provide food for our guest(s). Within a few days, Gretchen had more than 20 Mayflower members plus nearly 10 more from Lynnhurst UCC who volunteered to provide food.
In order to set up the living space for our guest and hosts, we needed many items. Many of you volunteered to provide beds, bedding, TVs and additional items. Some of you wanted to financially contribute to this effort. Jane Murphy took on the responsibility of coordinating all of this. Several members of MIT volunteered to be drivers, which meant picking up the guest from the court or detention center, taking him/her to a COVID testing center, and then bringing them to a designated hotel. We felt it was vital to train our hosts, so Renee (MIT) and David Carey created a training video.
On July 17 the leadership circle of MIT met to decide what needed to be done to meet our goal of being ready to house guests on July 20. We still had what felt like an insurmountable problem of getting enough hosts. After careful consideration, we made the difficult decision that we would not be able to host guests at Mayflower.
However, because of generous contributions from Mayflower and Plymouth UCC members, we were able to set up a fund of more than $6,000 dedicated to this project. These funds allowed us to consider other options.
We have made arrangements with a local hotel to initially provide discounted lodging for our guest(s) after which we intend to house them in a local VRBO. If you know of someone who has a vacant house available for the month of August and would like to donate or rent space, please contact Diane Haines at 952.237.6264.
It takes a village. The Mayflower village includes more than 60 volunteers. Lynnhurst UCC has provided 10 volunteers. The South Minneapolis Sanctuary coalition provided two volunteers. Plymouth UCC has provided a large grant and several volunteers. ICOM (Interfaith Coalition on Immigration) and St. Joan of Arc have been supporting this effort as well.
MIT is so grateful for your generosity, loving support and interest in this ministry. We will keep you abreast of what the future holds.