My six weeks at my internship are coming to an end. I have been working on writing letters with words of encouragement, trying to see how we at Casa Mariposa can help with the detainees that write to us, and sometimes having to not write back because their requests are more than what we offer. The latter has not been a problem until as of late, now that the house has space reserved for certain detainees that will, hopefully, be released soon. Word about Casa Mariposa and that we provide housing – funny how the “transitional” part always gets ignored – has spread among the detainees, so we have been getting many more letters this week about asking for an address and a bill to prove the address. In order for this to work, there has to be space in the house as well as our partner houses – homes that friends of ours have opened for temporary housing. If there is space, then a letter of support is written for the detainee so that there is proof a legal resident or a U.S. citizen has provided an address for the detainee before he or she goes off to where they want to go. Giving a detainee simply the written address is not easy as it seems. You have to talk with the rest of the people from Casa Mariposa to see if there is enough room and with the rest of the community if it is okay to house more released detainees. It’s not easy to give hospitality.
This week, many detainees have asked for an address and a letter of support. As I’ve mentioned, Casa Mariposa and the community houses have filled, so we can no longer provide letters of support. All this week I have struggled with figuring out the best way to tell them we can’t give them hospitality. A lot of the times it’s because they have no plans for the future; they just say in their letters that they need a place. I have had to write in many letters that Casa Mariposa provides “transitional housing”, meaning once you are at Casa Mariposa you stay around two weeks until you find your own place or you have finalized the transfer to the city you meant to go to in the first place. We can’t provide long-term housing.
I think that’s been the main problem. A lot of detainees don’t know what they’re going to do until they get out. It’s been so hard for me to write these letters. Especially now that I am almost done. Today alone I wrote twelve letters saying that Casa Mariposa won’t be able to answer letters as quickly as they have been these last couple of weeks. Read “Leasly and Kate are leaving, who have been answering the letters as soon as they get them.” The house is going to be smaller in members, but not in spirit. I did write, though, that although we won’t be writing as often, we’d still visit and try to write as often as we can. I’ve learned that you have to give some good news whenever giving any bad news. The good news have to be stronger in order to uplift their spirits.
I don’t know how many letters I’ve written since I’ve been here. But I do remember making sure to include as much personal details about the detainee as possible, showing that I have taken the time to read them and answer each and every one.