Houston Mayor Asks Structure Owner to Reevaluate Lease for Undocumented Child Detention Facility

As Public Controversy Over the Detention Program Increased, Mayor Sylvester Turner Meets with Firm Preparation to Run Shelter for Minors in Leased Storage Facility

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner (center) held a press conference Tuesday afternoon flanked by community and spiritual leaders, calling for the owner of the building to reassess leasing it to a shelter company.

As the number of children separated from their parents after illegally crossing at the border continues to grow, Southwest Key Programs, a Texas-based not-for-profit organization that runs shelters for undocumented kids, was planning to open another center in Houston where it rented a vacant warehouse at 419 Emancipation Ave.

The building’s owner, 419 Hope Partners, an entity owned and run by David Denenburg, validated to The Washington Post on Monday that Southwest Secret just recently signed a lease for the warehouse. Denenburg is an active designer in the area, behind several neighboring high-profile redevelopment tasks such as the Cheek-Neal Coffee building and the former Schlumberger HQ.

Nevertheless, as public controversy over the detention program increased, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner weighed in on the issue.

“I did not provide my blessing to the idea of a non-profit pertaining to Houston and operating a shelter for these unaccompanied minors collared on the border,” Mayor Turner said at a Tuesday afternoon interview. He likewise said the center has actually not yet been accredited by the state.

Southwest Keys, validated it has actually made an application for a state license to run the center. If approved, it would be licensed to house up to 240 children at the location.

Turner also pointed out the center has not been inspected by the fire department nor does it have a shelter or food serving license from the city.

“I found out only last week that the building owner … signed a long term lease,” Mayor Turner stated. “Until recently the city of Houston remained in the process of working out with Mr. Denenburg for a low-level homeless shelter.”

However, in a declaration, the structure ownership stated the property is equipped to run as a shelter, with private living quarters each with a full bathroom, a commercial kitchen, an outdoor playground, a child care area, and other amenities.

The proposed facility was previously used as a homeless shelter for females and kids and most just recently, as a shelter for Hurricane Harvey refugees. Denenburg acquired the residential or commercial property from Star of Hope Mission in September 2016.

“At first we were not informed who the new occupant was, frankly it was kept as a trick,” Turner said after the lease offer was brought to his attention by migration activists who contacted his workplace.

“Exactly what I stated to Southwest Secret, with all due respect, is that I do not wish to be an enabler in this procedure, I do not desire the city to participate in this procedure, I do not desire our facilities or property owners to take part in this procedure. I would ask Mr. Denenburg to reconsider. I would ask Southwest Secret to reconsider,” Turner stated at journalism conference.

When asked what power the city would need to delay or avoid the allowing from moving forward, Turner said city officials would “take the time to do our job.”

“I can not inform you the length of time that will require to finish that process,” Turner added.

Southwest Key and city officials held official talks shortly before the Mayor’s Tuesday afternoon interview. According to Turner, after the conversation, Southwest Key is taking a second look at which instructions it wants to continue. The business is reportedly likewise looking at expanding its present centers.

Mayor Turner acknowledged the good service that Southwest Secret has offered in the past. Southwest Key runs 26 facilities for unaccompanied minors in Arizona, California and Texas. The centers are funded by the federal Workplace of Refugee Resettlement, which falls under the Department of Health and Person Solutions. Four comparable centers currently run in Houston.

“Throughout the years, we have housed many children under the age of 4 who were sent out by [the federal government] to stay in our shelters without a moms and dad, member of the family or guardian,” Southwest Key spokeswoman Cindy Casares informed the Houston Chronicle in a declaration.

“While they stuck with us, we did the very same thing we do for every kid in our care. We worked to reunify them with family or sponsor as quickly as is securely possible.”

About 2,000 kids have been separated from their moms and dads given that the administration announced plans to impose a ‘zero-tolerance’ undocumented immigration policy in April. Under the policy, kids are taken from their moms and dads to a shelter while the parents are imprisoned and prosecuted for illegal entry, a misdemeanor, and after that required to immigrant detention centers to await deportation procedures.

By numerous accounts, authorities have been scrambling to secure centers had to house all the children and grownups being processed. Approximately 1,500 kids are being held at the facility in Brownsville, Tex., an abandoned Walmart. A short-term shelter in Tornillo, Texas is also in the works to house children.

“I have done my best to attempt and remain clear of the national dialogue on many problems. I have actually done my finest to attempt and stay concentrated on the problems that face the city of Houston,” Turner said. “But this problem is different, since this involves our kids. This one is various. There comes a time when Americans, Houstonians and Texans have to say to a power higher than ourselves that this is just wrong.”

David Denenburg might not be reached for questions.

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