Pima County has used Federal money to create a large migrant shelter system. Its helped the county avoid Border Patrol releasing migrants to the streets. But the County says Federal money planned for next year will not be enough to keep the program going.

Leaders at the Casa Alitas shelter system say Border Patrol releases people to the shelter who are legally approved to enter the U.S. while immigration courts consider their asylum claimsand its a process required by Federal immigration law.

The shelter says most of the people stay there just a day or two as they arrange travel to approved sponsor homes in other cities.

This shelter normally gets maybe 600 people a day, but this week there have been days the numbers been twice that. Shelter director Teresa Cavendish says Casa Alitas has still been able to avoid street releases and the impact theyd have on the community.

There would be unhoused individuals who have no resources, no knowledge about what to do next. No ability to move forward by and large. They cannot get to the families and sponsors who are available to them here in the US. They would simply be unhoused on our streets, very confused and it would become a public safety and health issue.

But this shelter and others in the system cost money. County spokesperson Mark Evans says they burn through $1.8 to $2 million a month. He says its all Federal money but as of the first of next year funding cuts mean the money could run out sometime in May 2024.

If nothing changes, he foresees people in short-term shelters could be released to Tucson streets by the thousands without any help to move on to sponsor homes.

Its obvious, it has to be obvious to everyone that we need this system to prevent that from happening. It’s what’s right for the community. It’s also what’s right for these people.

Teresa Cavendish says surges like this weeks could make the money run out well before May. Both she and Mark Evans say theres no good answer to what happens then.

Its true taxpayers foot the bill whether its Federal or local, but Evans says county leaders have been very firm that immigration is a Federal issue to be dealt with with Federal dollarsand there is no optionand no money to apply local tax money to the shelters.