Cuenca struggles to assist refugees, asks for federal funds to provide assistance

Jul 31, 2019 | 27 comments

As the number of Venezuelan immigrants continues to grow, Cuenca officials say the city has reached the limit of its ability to provide assistance. “We need financial support to continue to provide services and we have appealed to President Lenin Moreno for help,” says Rocío Tapia, city social services development director says.

The Cuenca Soup Kitchen, operated by expat volunteers, is one of the organizations assisting Venezuelan refugees.

According to Tapia, the several organizations, including the Catholic church, have developed a plan to use public and church facilities to help the refugees but need money to carry out the plan.

According to an estimate released last week by the city, there are 8,000 to 9,000 Venezuelans living in Cuenca with more than a thousands of them considered to be in “dire need.” The city there are also an estimated 4,000 Colombians in the city, several hundred of them recent arrivals.

Tapia says that public and private programs need at least $3 million to continue and expand there work. “The number of those needing assistance has doubled in the last year and we are desperate for resources to mitigate the impacts of migration,” she says, adding that she hopes that some of recent commitments of funding from international humanitarian groups and the United States can be sent to Cuenca.

Among the biggest needs, according to the Archdiocese of Cuenca, are overnight facilities for the homeless. Currently, the former San Francisco church orphanage is the only place for the homeless to stay, and it has only has a capacity for 100 a day. The church says hundreds more are served in private homes. “In addition to the church’s programs, there are many good Samaritans in the community but there is only so much we can do under the circumstances,” the Archdiocese said in a news release.

The Archdiocese said it has served approximately 15,000 people in the first half of 2019.

Tapia added that in addition to space for homeless refugees, the city also needs help providing food. “A number of charitable organizations, including the church, has kitchens providing meals for poor immigrants but they too are stretched to the limit.”

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