Dallas-area charities prepare to help undocumented children

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by LAUREN ZAKALIK

WFAA

Posted on June 29, 2014 at 11:40 AM

DALLAS — They're coming from unbearable conditions in Central America, just to be put in tough conditions here in Texas, too. But for at least 2,000 undocumented, unaccompanied children, that will soon change.

"I have offered our assistance to the federal government," Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins told delegates at the Texas Democratic Convention Saturday morning. "We are partnering to increase capacity to move a number of the children from incarceration on the border to compassionate care in Dallas County."

To do that, the government will likely need the help of local charities.

"I'm going to be working with non-profits in this area to make sure we do our part," said Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings.

"We want to put our arms around them," added Vanna Slaughter, division director for Catholic Charities of Dallas.

News 8 reached out to six different charity organizations; none had been contacted yet by the county. But Slaughter said her group could provide legal representation or emotional support if needed.

Other organizations — including Texas Baptist Men — said they are standing by to offer mobile showers, laundry services and food.

"We’re ready to do anything within reason we can possibly do and be there for these children," Slaughter said.

The Salvation Army is among the charitable groups that has not yet been contacted. "Were that to happen, we’d all want to do whatever is necessary to provide care for the children," said spokesman Pat Patey.

Patey said his group is part of the Mass Care Task Force of North Texas, a disaster relief organization born from something many of us remember well.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina evacuees came to Dallas and stayed in places like the former Reunion Arena. And although these are different circumstances, the Salvation Army says that experience has helped prepare them for this kind of outreach.

"I think we had at least 25,000 evacuees come in, and we provided assistance for them over a three-to-four week period of time," Patey said. "We’re prepared now in a way we never were before."

And that's a good thing, in case they get the call from the county for help in acclimating these children to a new, temporary home.

E-mail lzakalik@wfaa.com

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