In the heart of Bushwick is a Venezuelan barber who for years has opened his Brooklyn home to friends, acquaintances and strangers arriving from his native country.

Juan Sanchez, a 51-year-old father and husband who comes from a large family and has many cousins, said he learned early on to share what he has. His late mother, he said, taught him to always stretch his resources to assist others.

This year, Sanchez’s three-bedroom apartment has become a haven for more and more travelers who are seeking a new home in the U.S. due to political and economic turmoil in their home country.

“It doesn’t matter to me where they’re from or who they are,” Sanchez said in Spanish. “What matters to me is to know the person and help them however I can, so the person receives that human warmth of family that they left in Venezuela.”

Juan Sanchez in his backyard.

There were seven recent arrivals staying with the Sanchez family in late October, with six occupying two of the bedrooms and a seventh sleeping on the couch. Sanchez said the typical stay lasts a few weeks to a few months until his guests find work and earn enough money to pay for a room of their own.

When Sanchez began helping his countrymen six or seven years ago, he said they flew from Venezuela to New York City with visas in hand. There were not as many as today and the first batch of people he helped had far better financial prospects. His recent guests, on the other hand, have entered the U.S. via Mexico under much more harrowing conditions.

They had all taken different paths to reach the Brooklyn apartment — but all were among approximately 23,000 asylum-seekers who have traveled to New York City from Venezuela, Colombia, Peru and other Latin American countries in recent months.

Once they were released from detention by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the asylum-seekers, who were mostly men along with some women, found their way to Sanchez’s house in Bushwick. Most became aware of Sanchez through relatives and friends in Venezuela who know him or his family.

From left: Daniel Sánchez, Edward Vallenilla, Abimael Fernández, and other recently arrived Venezuelan asylum-seekers joke in Juan Sanchez's backyard.

On a recent Thursday, a group of men gathered in Sanchez’s backyard for a home-cooked meal of hand-made arepas and soup made with chicken, yuca, onion, cilantro and corn.

“We always do this sporadically, so they feel like they are with family,” said Sanchez, as he helped his wife Veruska Reyes de Sanchez prepare lunch. “We’re a big group.”

Juan Sanchez and his wife, Veruska Reyes de Sanchez, prepare pollo guisado (braised chicken) and arepas for the group.

Ingredients that will be used to prepare a meal of hand-made arepas and soup.

Another three men were staying at Sanchez’s nephew’s house in East New York. Over the years, Sanchez estimated that about 40 Venezuelans have stayed at his apartment.

“The majority of the people come to Señor Juan, almost everyone, he helps everyone,” said Albert Gonzalez, 26, who arrived about four months ago and stayed with the Sanchez family for about two months.

The Bushwick barber, Gonzalez said, has created a network of asylum-seekers who have bonded through their shared experiences during their time with him.

“We come together like family practically. We share. We’re always together,” Gonzalez said.

Family-style dinner in Juan Sanchez's backyard.

Sanchez (center, white T-shirt) smiles while sharing food and laughs around an outdoor dinner table.

Many of Sanchez’s guests have found work delivering food for companies like GrubHub and DoorDash while they apply for asylum to remain in the U.S.

The arrivals of thousands of migrants, many of whom are living in the city’s homeless shelters, caught Mayor Eric Adams by surprise as Republican governors began busing new arrivals to northern cities with friendlier immigration policies without a heads up. The sudden influx has put a strain on city resources, Adams said last month when declaring a city-wide state of emergency over the migrant crisis.

And while the city set up centers to assist migrants as well as emergency homeless shelters in hotels, much of the work of helping the new arrivals settle in the five boroughs has fallen to nonprofit providers and good Samaritans like Sanchez.

'Warmth of family'

Millions of Venezuelans have left their country in the last decade, the largest displacement of people after Ukraine and Syria. Many have fled to neighboring countries and other places in South America.

The political turmoil and economic meltdown began years ago but got worse with the death of former President Hugo Chávez in 2013 and the installation of his vice president, Nicolás Maduro, as his successor. Maduro, a member of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela founded by Chávez, narrowly won the presidential election by roughly 235,000 votes amid demands for a recount.

Juan Sanchez carries his Venezuelan flag in his rear pocket.

Venezuela is home to the largest shares of oil reserves in the world. But when it faced low oil prices and production in 2015, the country was struggling to buy and import goods — like food and medicine — and was in the midst of a recession and sky-high inflation rates, rendering its currency effectively worthless. This economic and political strife forced millions of Venezuelans to flee their homes.

When he was a child in Venezuela, Sanchez said there were times when his mother had enough Harina P.A.N., a brand of refined corn flour used to make arepas, empanadas and other foods, for six people, but she always found a way to feed a much larger group.

“How did she manage to feed 20 people?” said Sanchez.

Sometimes he relies on the kindness of others, like his good friend Ricardo Romero, the owner of Arepas Café in Astoria, and the generosity of nonprofits.

“There are churches that help you,” Sanchez said. “And one goes and looks for bags of food.”

Yumalver Contreras left Venezuela about six months ago to find a way to provide for his wife and young son. Even buying diapers and milk was difficult back home, he said.

Contreras was able to fly from Caracas to Mexico, but once he landed in the country he had to pay people to take him to the U.S. border, where he would submit himself to immigration officials.

He was detained for three days before he was allowed to move on to New York.

“Honestly, I was scared when I was detained that they would send me back, or that I would stay there a long time,” Contreras said. “But thanks to God’s help, I was released quickly.”

Luckily, Contreras’ father was an old friend of Sanchez’s from Caracas, so he had someone to receive him in New York and tell him everything would be OK. “Señor Juan made me feel I had his support the moment I was released,” said Contreras.

He is now staying with Juan’s nephew, Daniel Sanchez, in East New York.

Sanchez has created a network of asylum-seekers who have bonded through their shared experiences during their time in his home.

As Sanchez stood in his backyard looking at the men sitting around a long rectangular table, chatting and laughing, he recalled how alienating it was to come to a new country and leave family behind in the journey for a better future.

“I thank God that I’m able to get them together so they don’t feel so alone,” he said. “I always try to get them all together so they can feel the warmth of family.”

But he also hopes that others will see him and know that success in a foreign place is possible.

“It’s reassuring for them to see in me a figure or example to keep going,” he added.

After dinner, Juan Sanchez begins a shift at the Central Latino Barber Shop in Bushwick.