Hundreds of migrants and asylum seekers pass through Pima County every dayand people who care for them expect their numbers to grow.

Now theres a new shelter that offers more capacity and the potential to expand even more. KGUN9 had a rare inside look.

The wide range of national flags on the wall of the latest Casa Alitas shelter speak to the wide range of people at the shelter and the size of the shelter speaks to the need.

Pima County is leasing half of a large former call center for Casa Alitas to add to its existing collection of shelters for asylum seekers. Federal grants pay about 330 thousand dollars for a six-month lease.

About 150 men are there now. The shelter may expand to make room for many more people after Title 42 ends next month. Thats a COVID-related health rule that made it harder for asylum seekers to enter the U.S. and easier to deport them.

Casa Alitas Director Teresa Cavendish says a surge from the end of Title 42 would put a strain on any community.

Tucson does not have the capacity to offer overnight shelter for that number of folks coming in every day. So however part of our strategy is that we move a certain percentage of our folks into Phoenix where shelters often stand empty because they are not receiving people from the same sources that we are.

Nelson is from Ecuador. He asked us not to show his face or use his full name. Shelter management asked us not to show anyones face without permission. Some are afraid gang violence in their home countries could catch up to them in the U.S.

Nelson says he wasnt safe in Ecuador. After a month-long journey, he hopes to find work and send help home.

Through a translator, he says his plans are to:

Help my mother. It’s just the two of us now and to get a job. Im going to New York. I have family there. I traveled with 7 out of Ecuador — 3 turned back — 4 made it.

While Nelson is from South America, shelter director Teresa Cavendish says theres a growing number from the other side of the Pacific.

Within our single male population, about 85% of these folks are hailing from points within Asia, you know, particularly the region of India. So that’s a dramatic shift for us away from a Latin base of countries for folks.

Teresa Cavendish says most people in the shelter leave in a day or two, to stay with sponsor families across the country, registered and approved by Federal immigration officials. Those families will be their temporary hosts while judges decide on asylum requests.

Volunteers help make the shelters work. Joan Tucker says she began with Casa Alitas five years ago. Now she works to adapt food to the cultural needs of the changing populations, understanding that part of the welcome they need may come on a plate.

These people have a tremendous need not only emotionally but physically, you know? In their head, they’re coming from a lot of maybe violence, insecurity. And so here we’re coming to help them meet that need right away.