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Casa Marinella, founded in 1986, is an emergency homeless shelter in East Austin that serves recently arrived immigrants and asylum seekers from around the world. Most housing organizations make accommodations after refugees have been granted asylum, but Casa is unique in the fact that they take people directly from detention, regardless of their status. The main purpose of Casa is to provide a safe place for residences to become self-sufficient.


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Residence of Casa hang out in the front of the main house on March 7th, 2018. For most, Casa is their first experience in America outside of detention. The stay of residences typically range anywhere from one week to three months. Many of their days are spent finding jobs, taking education courses, trying to get driving permits, catching up with friends and family over the phone, and household chores.

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Christina Cho (left), intern at Casa for the past 3 months, and Manuel (middle), 18 year old from Honduras, talk about their opinions on tattoos in broken Spanish and English. Mijanic (right) from Honduras, laughs on the side from their conversation.

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Zoe (left), student at St. Edwards University, prepares dinner for the residences on her first day volunteering. Lisabeth (right), whom is from El Salvador, spends her ninth day at Casa cooking fried rice for dinner, making it the same way as she did when she was younger.

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Ego, from the Anglophone Cameroon, naps in one of Casa’s ESL classrooms on an air mattress.

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Merlin Kuissick (right) talks to Christina (left) about the dream he had about her last night. In it, she took him out exploring Austin and tried to help him find a job. Later he shared to her about the first time he fell in love and his first heartbreak. Similar to Ego, he sleeps in the ESL classroom.

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Ego passionately speaks of his frustration and experience with the immigration court system in Georgia. He has been living at Casa for the past two weeks, after staying in the detention center for a month. He explains that regardless of where one is for parole, it takes the court just as long as being inside detention to get a hearing date.

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Residents check for mail in the main office for letters regarding their court hearing dates, social security cards or legal forms.

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Cecelia Forberg (right) helps a Casa resident fill out his job application form. Cecelia has been at Casa since the Fall of 2017, and found her way to Casa through the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. Sam (left) recently switched from working with Catholic Charities in Atlanta, to work at Casa. He also came from the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, and has been working at Casa for the past month.

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After this picture was taken, I asked for his name, but couldn’t make it out through his mumbled voice. I decided to write the alphabet in my journal for him to point out the letters in his name, but he insisted that I write from what I heard, which was “Badzero-Ana-Lrum”. He saw this and happily laughed. This was the last sound I expected coming from him. From previous visits, I gathered that he was a serious man that wanted to be left alone—he was usually smoking a cigar outside, or watching the Spanish television with a contempt look on his face, never saying a word to anyone. But after he laughed the ice was broken, and motioned for me to ask the staff members in the office about who he was. I learned that his name was not “Badero-Ana-Lrum”, but instead, “Marcello”. Marcello is a 60 year old from Cuba who suffers from fatal diabetes, and has been staying at Casa for the past two years. When I came out of the office exclaiming, “Marcello”, he started laughing again.