Brownsville’s Ozanam Center in need of monetary donations, essential items

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A single pair of rain boots are the only shoes available for migrants Thursday, June 29, 2023, in the Ozanam Center’s closet in Brownsville. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

BROWNSVILLE — Ozanam Center continues to reach out a helping hand to migrants following the expiration of Title 42 in May but meeting the rising numbers has led to a desperate need for funding and supplies.

Title 8 allows persons with a “credible fear” against returning to their country of origin to apply for asylum — with new rules barring persons entering illegally for several years or those who did not apply for refuge while passing through another country to claim asylum in the United States.

Since the policy change, Shelter Director Myrna M. Arteaga reports that the center receives on average as many as 80 people at a time as other agencies and nonprofits in the Valley call them to find open beds.

“It’s just more people that are still coming in, and it does not stop,” Arteaga said.

While the Ozanam Center has been busy before, Arteaga says that recently the center, which has a capacity for 250 people, has been serving numbers as high as 315. To help make room, they have been using mats to make up for the lack of open beds when over capacity.

“I thought, eventually, it would ease down, but it doesn’t,” she said.

Often, this leads to long days at the center until as late as 1 a.m. processing intake forms or settling in their temporary residents.

Arteaga reports that with the high numbers at the shelter, it needs monetary donations and essential items to help serve its charges.

Currently, the center is attempting to find funds to finish the construction of the six family units on the property, which can provide families in need with their own sleeping space and restroom facilities to keep parents and children together. The COVID-19 pandemic delayed unit completion due to raised construction costs, so the center adds to the buildings one step at a time.

Traffic moves past the sign for Ozanam Center Thursday, June 29, 2023, in Brownsville. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

“Everything is getting done as the funds come in to finish it,” Arteaga said.

The center is also looking to replace its trailer, which acts as their donated clothing closet. Arteaga reports it is severely damaged and falling apart.

As for donated items, bottled water, she says, is an item they need every day, especially in the continuing heat wave.

“We do need a lot of water. We are going out of water like crazy because we use water a lot,” she said.

Additionally, the people who come into their care often lack basic supplies and clothes following their journey to the United States.

“The people from Venezuela, Ecuador, Honduras and all those places lose everything in the jungle. That’s what they tell us. Or they just have what they are wearing,” Arteaga said.

Donations of men’s t-shirts, shorts and jeans (size small-large); men’s shoes, shoe laces, socks and women’s underwear is in need at the shelter.

Shelter Director Myrna M. Arteaga sorts through a basket of donated clothes in the Ozanam Center’s closet Thursday, June 29, 2023, in Brownsville. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

Hygiene packs with travel-sized items like deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, Q-tips, shampoo and conditioner are some of the daily essentials needed.

Donations of over-the-counter medications such as antacids, antibacterial ointment, pain relievers and allergy medication, in addition to menstruation supplies, are also appreciated.

The public can drop off items at the shelter located at 656 N. Minnesota Ave. in Brownsville from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

To make a monetary donation, the public can do so by check or online at