efe-epaBy Nelida Fernandez. Caracas

An increasing number of Venezuelans are crossing the border into Colombia due to the unprecedented economic and social crisis scourging their homeland, leaving their children in the care of relatives who cannot afford to support them.

Shelters for abandoned or orphaned children have reported being overcrowded but they still receive requests to house more kids from relatives and people under whose care the children have been placed.

"There are increasing numbers of children being left under the care of a relative or neighbor because the parents are crossing the Colombian border looking for work," non-profit Don Bosco Shelter Network director Leonardo Rodriguez told EFE. "We have noticed that on the streets."

The Don Bosco Salesian association is comprised of 10 homes providing shelter to 1,300 minors around the country and is part of a group of 86 non-governmental shelters - plus the 27 run by the state - that could be housing as many as 5,000 children and teens referred there by courts, said the attorney.

Rodriguez said that there are also children who abandon their own homes and just stop by the "open courtyards" of the Don Bosco shelters to take a shower, rest a little and eat something before going back to living on the streets.

"An average of 16 children pass by the open courtyards (each day)," he said, adding that many of them prefer living on the streets to staying with relatives or caretakers.