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St. Vincent de Paul assists asylum seekers through summer initiative

PHOENIX — The Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Arizona has assisted over 4,500 asylum seekers through a summer program that’s provided food, shelter, clothing, and hygiene items.

“There’s people in need in the community, and that’s what we do,” Jessica Burg, St. Vincent de Paul chief program officer, told KTAR News 92.3FM.

In conjunction with the International Rescue Committee, St. Vincent de Paul originally participated in a trial weekend in March where they assisted 300 asylum seekers. The trial stemmed from a community call to action for more support for asylum seekers in the area. The program was set to continue through the end of May as the community worked on long term solutions.

With these solutions still in the works, they’ve continued to receive individuals and families from ICE and support them as they make the change.

Burg noted when resources aren’t available, asylum seekers are typically taken to a Greyhound station and are often times without basic essentials.

This is where churches and nonprofits, like St. Vincent de Paul, have stepped in to help those with the transition.

“It’s an extension of what we do everyday,” Burg said.

When it comes to aiding asylum seekers in the state, the initiatives have always been grassroots. Burg noted that St. Vincent de Paul regularly communicates with churches, organizations, and the city to generate community solutions.

“We try to work together to make sure nobody is stranded in the heat,” Burg said.

Burg said there are up to 200 asylum seekers released from ICE everyday as they go through the legal process who say they are escaping violence or persecution at home.

The organization assists a person anywhere from a few hours to a few days. On average, 98% are only there for 72 hours before they are united with their families or sponsors.

“When they come in, we just try to welcome them and give them some relief,” Burg said. “You can see the relief on their face. It’s a safe place and we’re just trying to help them on the next steps of their journey.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ali Vetnar contributed to this report.

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