Volunteers organize to meet needs of migrant workers

ROCHESTER, Minn. (AP) — The migrant workers who arrive in Rochester each spring and summer to work in canning plants come with little or nothing.
Once they arrive, they need to find housing, food and child care. Nona Yancy, an AmeriCorps worker who has been working with migrants in Rochester through the Diversity Council and the Intercultural Mutual Assistance Association, recently organized a meeting for people interested in assisting the migrant community. She would like to help migrant workers find essential resources.
“I want to see how we can meet their needs,” said Yancy, who first came to Rochester two years ago as a migrant worker. “I know from personal experience … the hardships of getting all of the things we need.”
Yancy said that most of the 100 or so migrant families who come to Rochester from the Eagle Pass, Texas, area stay for five or six months each year. Finding a place to live is generally their most difficult task, especially since most apartment owners require renters to sign a one-year lease, she said.
“Usually when they first get here, they stay in cars in rest areas and go to service stations to clean themselves up,” she said.
When Dennis Hartog, the only Rochester landlord jailed for failing to repair an apartment building, was renting properties in Rochester, migrant workers had an easier time finding a place to live, said Bonnie Gloor, who works with Migrant Health Services in Rochester.
“The summer before last was actually better because they at least had (Hartog’s properties to rent),” Gloor said. “Last year was very, very tough for people.”
Some of the 22 people attending the first meeting offered suggestions for temporary housing. Ideas ranged from churches to college dormitories.
Migrants also need help with child care, Yancy said.
Wayne Kuklinski, the regional program coordinator of Tri-Valley Migrant Head Start, said his organization might open a Migrant Head Start Center in Rochester this summer if it can find the space and the staff.
Tri-Valley has met with representatives from Rochester Public Schools, and the two groups are “exploring the possibility of making space available for the Migrant Head Start operation this year,” Kuklinski said. “We’re also looking at having school-age services, which would be funded with migrant education money.”
The Migrant Head Start Center would serve children ranging from six weeks old to the age of compulsory school attendance, he said.
“There have been, over the last three years, somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 families who bring young children with them who don’t have good child care situations (in Rochester),” he said. “They’re also very interested in having some educational services available for their children so they’re prepared for school.”