Shelter for displaced immigrants in need of space for more families

One of the only shelters for migrants seeking asylum in Central Texas is at capacity.

Casa Marianella is home to many migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. For Therese Nzenze it's a place where she finds some sense of normalcy after traveling from the Republic of Congo across the Atlantic, through Cuba and over the Rio Grande. 

Nzenze spent eight months in a detention center in Texas. Five trials later she was released and made her way to Casa Marianella with only the clothes on her back.

Nzenze spoke five different languages including Spanish. She said she picked up Spanish while she was traveling through Latin America in search of a better life. She said the Congo was violent and she wanted to live in a place with democracy and freedom. 

"I found peace in this house," Nzenze said.

Executive director Jennifer Long said they've seen an uptick in families from the Congo. The cluster of renovated homes in East Austin houses 38 people but now the shelter needs help with 11 additional families.

"What I learned doing this work is that no one leaves their home unless something terrible happens,” Long said. “On our southern border we are getting people from all over the world, people from Russia and many different countries in Africa so it's a real big change and unfortunately we are not prepared for it because there are very few shelters like ours in the United States."

There are only a few shelters that house those seeking asylum in the U.S Long said the largest shelters are in New York and Maine. Long has been watching the crisis at the border and said she hopes other cities will chip in and help.

"I think most people are confused and don't realize that it's actually people's right to come to a border and ask for help when they are in danger and that there is a process for that, and they are doing this all totally legally, and they should be given the services they need in order to do that,” Long said.

"I think Austin is doing a pretty good job of doing its share and I think San Antonio is doing a fabulous job but we need a lot more capacity around the country, so we've been sending people to a couple of different states to sponsor in groups because I feel like it can't all be handled only here in Texas," she added.

To sponsor a family or donate, visit Casa Marianella’s website.