The Humanitarian Respite shelter in the downtown section of the City of McAllen, Texas was born as a response to families in crisis. Through its services and the work of volunteers, it successfully restores dignity to people in need, particularly Central American immigrants seeking refuge crossing the border from Mexico to the US.
Since its setup in 2014, it has operated in the borrowed space of a Parish Hall and is currently reduced to limited rental space. It has served nearly 100,000 immigrants to date. Hundreds of volunteers, coming from cities in the Rio Grande Valley and arriving from all 50 states and abroad have come together to offer a helping hand, sharing inspirational stories of their connection with immigrants. Tons of goods have been donated, thanks to the contributions and solidarity of individuals and organizations alike.
Sister Norma Pimentel, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley leads an entire community that is now committed to tend to unaccompanied children, women and men traveling harsh journeys in search of safety and security. Although her work has received accolades from international organizations and recognition by Pope Francis, she remains humble and clear in her vision: the humanitarian respite center should serve as a beacon that symbolizes hope, love, unity and compassion to our fellow human beings for generations to come.
A continuous story of difficulties turned into hope and dignity regained has unfolded and now it needs to be told differently. Human displacement is an issue that more than ever, requires the attention of architects and designers to interpret spaces that offer not only respite, but that embody radical hospitality and restore human dignity.
In a purchased lot in the heart of the City of McAllen, a place of historical significance, a multi-story building of 18,000 sq.ft should respond to the needs of a program where volunteers, visitors, officials and refugees come together in a space that embodies the spirit of humanity at its best.