A hospitality house in Lumpkin, Georgia, for families of detainees at nearby Stewart Detention Center has received an upgrade.
El Refugio (“the refuge” in Spanish) was housed in a little yellow home about a mile from Stewart. However, TBS show “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee”recently surprised the organization by donating a six-bedroom, renovated house to use.
“This new gift means we’ll be able to accommodate more families,” said El Refugio’s executive director, Amilcar Valencia. “Our current facility is a three-bedroom home, and it has limited space.”
El Refugio was founded in 2010 to offer free room and board to those visiting Stewart detainees. It was a lucky surprise for some travelers who stumbled upon the house. Lumpkin is a small, remote town with no hotels or grocery stores. The closest city, Columbus, is 36 miles away.
El Refugio says it supported 415 family members of detained immigrants in 2017. The group’s 2018 operating budget was $102,259.
“When we started, we just didn’t have a huge budget,” Valencia says. “One hundred percent of the people who were working at El Refugio were volunteers. We didn’t have money. We had trust that people would support us.”
That trust seems to have paid off.
The new house has 3,100 square feet, 20 beds, a renovated kitchen with new appliances, two bathrooms and a custom dining room table that seats 20 people. It also includes a new washer and dryer, so volunteers don’t have to take bedding and towels back to Atlanta to clean them.
The house is open to visitors of Stewart on the weekends. During the week, volunteer lawyers and interpreters from the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Southeast Immigration Freedom Initiative will stay at the house. The attorneys provide free legal representation to immigrants at Stewart and other detention centers.
“We don’t have the capacity to provide legal support,” Valencia says. “They do have the capacity, and the least we can do is offer hospitality to them.”
“Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” donated the house during its “Christmas on I.C.E.” special, which aired Wednesday.