Growing unemployment, persistent under-employment, and a steady influx of deportations from the U.S. have left the Catholic Church in Tijuana hard-pressed to meet the needs of the poor who turn to it for help, according to a June 5 story in El Sol de Tijuana.
Several longstanding and well-known charitable agencies sponsored by the Archdiocese of Tijuana now find themselves overwhelmed by the increasing numbers of those living in "extreme poverty," the newspaper reported.
For example, La Casa del Migrante (“house of the migrant”), a border-region fixture that has helped immigrants with food, clothing, and a daily hot shower for 26 years, last week set an occupancy record: Instead of the 150 to 200 men typically housed there each day, the number jumped to 250.
Meanwhile, at La Casa de los Pobres (“house of the poor”) in Colonia Altamira, instead of serving what has been the usual two meals a day, La Casa de los Pobres now provides a single meal, beginning at 7:00 in the morning. On average, more than 6000 people a week rely on Casa de los Pobres for the single meal they eat daily.
"Casa de los Pobres desperately needs your help!" says a notice posted on the charity's website. "The combination of the serious economic downturn and the horrific drug-cartel violence afflicting Tijuana has created a steep decline in both donations and volunteers. Without Casa doing what it does, day after day after day, the very bad situation in Tijuana would become incomparably worse. Whatever you can contribute would be greatly appreciated."
Across the city, reports El Sol, many of the poor are living out of cardboard boxes and begging for money on the streets. When times get particularly tough, they turn to one of the city's 105 Catholic parishes for help.
Some of the poor apparently aren't all that grateful. In some parishes in outlying areas, reports El Sol, the bells used to call the faithful to worship have been silenced by thieves: "They steal them so they can sell the metal for a little bit of money."
An announcement late last week from Banco de México suggests the growing plight of Tijuana's poor is not likely to reverse course anytime soon. For ten consecutive months, beginning in July 2012, the bank said in a monthly report, there has been a steady decline in the amount of money Mexicans living abroad have been sending home to their families.
Among the reasons cited for the decline by Banco de México: "Employment of Mexican migrants in the United States, the nation in which the majority of co-nationals who send money to the country are located, has not grown in recent months…. It is hoped that the remittances will recover in May, principally because of an increase in the exchange rate and also because of Mother’s Day, a factor that motivates Mexicans to send resources to their country."