Stories of Change
Jessica, Juan and Maria during their stays at Abba House. Photos courtesy of Abba House.
A place to rest for everyone
Written June 22, 2020
When guests arrive at Abba House in the town of Celaya in central Mexico, they are often exhausted from their journey. Abba House welcomes migrants and asylum seekers, many of whom are from Central American nations and are on their way north to the United States border. They have been on the road for days or weeks. Their feet hurt in old and worn-out shoes. They haven’t had a safe place to sleep in many nights. They haven’t been eating enough. They’ve been in state of high stress for too long, and need a place where they can truly rest for a few days.
That’s exactly what CWS-supported Abba House is: a place to rest.
For LGBTQI+ persons escaping persecution in their home countries, Abba House offers an environment where they are respected and not discriminated against. And for some of them, it’s the first time in too long where they have felt safe.
Jessica visited Abba House in January. She’s a 25-year-old transgender woman from Guatemala. At home, she faced death threats. She was discriminated against when she tried to find work, and her family refused to support her. So she fled, making her way north through Mexico to try to reach the United States. By the time she reached Abba House, she had survived a tough journey. She had been discriminated against during her trip up Mexico’s Caribbean coast and had survived an attempted sexual assault. Abba House was “like an oasis amid the uncertainty and risks,” she said.
The next month, a 29-year-old gay man named Juan stayed at Abba House. He felt like he couldn’t stay in his hometown in Honduras. He couldn’t find work, and didn’t feel like he could be himself in a place where homophobia often turned violent. So he and his cousin left for the United States, where they also hoped to earn enough money to support their aging relatives at home. Abba House staff found the pair on the streets of Celaya and connected them to the shelter. They were not in good shape after several weeks of walking and facing the threats of the journey.
And earlier this month, 37-year-old Maria came to Abba House. A transgender woman from Honduras, Maria and her partner are not legally recognized at home. Maria couldn’t find work and felt stigmatized, so she and her partner left together. She says that she left “in search of better living conditions” and “to avoid death from violence, disease or hunger.” When they arrived at Abba House after several weeks on the road, Maria said her feet hurt badly. And she looked sad and defeated.
Jessica, Juan and Maria all found some measure of relief at Abba House. Jessica stayed for five days, and the others both stayed for three. During their time there, they had safe places to sleep and plenty of food to eat each day. They had access to showers and hygiene supplies that they could take with them. They picked out new clothes and shoes and received medical care if they needed it. Maria arrived during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mexico, so she also received information and supplies to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Jessica, Juan and Maria all participated in counseling sessions and received advice on their legal options, including their human rights as migrants and the process for seeking refugee status. Each one was treated with respect and love.
All of them decided to continue north towards the United States. All are now near the U.S. border, waiting for their chance to seek asylum. Jessica has since received a humanitarian visa from the Mexican government, allowing her to stay and work in Mexico for up to one year. However, living indefinitely in Mexican border cities exposes most migrants – and particularly LGBTQI+ persons – to a high risk of violence while they wait their asylum hearings.
While CWS doesn’t know what their futures hold, we are proud to have contributed to a welcoming and supportive space for them on their journeys.