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Denver church closing its overnight shelter for newly arrived immigrants after nearly three months

The senior pastor said its volunteers are stretched thin and the shelter cannot remain open. He is hoping to help immigrants transition to a town in Kansas with a population of 672.
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Posted at 9:27 PM, Mar 28, 2024

DENVER — A church in Denver's Sunnyside neighborhood is closing its overnight shelter for newly arrived immigrants just over two months after it opened.

Since Jan. 10, Denver Friends Church has opened its doors to newcomers in need. However, Senior Pastor Keith Reeser said their volunteers are stretched thin and it's time to end their overnight services.

"We have doctors, we have nurses, we have regular people in the community that are serving in so many capacities," said Reeser.

Osmery Dominguez and her family came to Denver after fleeing Venezuela for a better life. They stopped by Denver Friends Church for food Thursday evening.

"A bi-weekly salary amounts to $12. What's $12 in Venezuela? It's nothing," Dominguez told Denver7.

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Reeser said 200 immigrants have stayed in the church's makeshift shelter since it opened.

"If you're in the church world, it feels like the never-ending lock-in is what I call it," the senior pastor explained.

With at least one volunteer staying awake at all times on the evening shift for emergency purposes, Reeser said it's exhausted his team, which is why Denver Friends Church made the decision to close its overnight shelter for good at the end of the month.

"It's a hard thing when the date approaches. You think about all the stories, all the people that we've been able to serve. And where will they go? What will they do? Will they be safe?" said Reeser.

Some individuals will be bused to Denver Community Church on Saturday morning, where they can stay for a few weeks.


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Reeser is also in discussions with organizations across state lines to help immigrant families. He said he's finding promise in a tiny town with a population of 672 people.

For immigrants who already have work permits, Reeser is exploring Haviland, Kansas, a place where he's lived before.

"I was looking specifically for families that had all this stuff in order that they could move to a smaller town that has some farm work, some ranch work... when they've told me their story is that they came from small towns in Venezuela or Colombia and they actually have some of that similar type of work experience," explained Reeser.

But the idea hasn't come without roadblocks.

"Some communities, unfortunately, just aren't interested," he said.

While opportunities out of state are being figured out, the church is still stepping up. Denver Friends Church has expanded Spanish services and is exploring starting an ESL program or asylum clinics. In the meantime, Reeser offers fellowship for all who walk through his church's doors.

"I am certainly not an immigration specialist... But I have grown to appreciate what they're going through and that their story really does matter," said Reeser.

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