If the federal government approves a grant proposal, a shelter for unaccompanied migrant teens could open in the city of Bell as soon as early next year. The Salvation Army hopes to turn what is now an unused warehouse into a residential facility that according to plans would house about 136 boys and girls, ages 14 to 17.
The warehouse is one of several the organization has in the area, some that are used as homeless shelters.
“In the city of Bell, we have warehouses that were donated to us by the federal government and we have been providing homeless services there for 20 years," said Pilar Buelna, executive director of social services for the Los Angeles-area Salvation Army. "And so we have an empty warehouse, and we feel that needs to be renovated. And if we get the grant, we can do that with those funds.”
City officials in Bell recently voted to support the shelter plan. Buelna said that if the proposal is approved, it could take about six months to turn the warehouse into a shelter that meets state licensing criteria.
In June, as more children and families arrived from Central America, requests for proposals on additional housing went out from Health and Human Services, the federal agency charged with sheltering unaccompanied minors and reuniting them with family members.
So far, youths who land in the Los Angeles area have been housed in existing HHS contract facilities and in a 600-bed emergency shelter set up last month at a military base in Point Hueneme, a short-term housing facility for minors over age 12. The call for more temporary residential space went out to state-licensed providers, with proposals due August 5.
The Salvation Army is also applying to open a smaller shelter in Hollywood, Buelna said, at a facility now used as transitional housing for young adults. Along with them are other organizations seeking funding for services to migrant kids; for example, the Clinica Romero medical clinic in Los Angeles has applied to subcontract with the Salvation Army as a medical provider.
How much grant funding is provided could depend on how much money Congress approves as part of plans to deal with migrant kids. President Obama recently asked Congress for $3.7 billion to help deal with the Central American migrant crisis. Both the Senate and the House are expected to vote this week on bills that would offer funding, but less of it - in the case of the House, far less. Votes are expected Thursday.