MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami-Dade’s mayor and police director toured the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children in South Miami Dade and found the conditions to be clean and the kids were being treated well.
Police Director Juan Perez said he and the new commanding officer of Federal Protection Services agency, which oversees safety at the shelter planned to get together at the site to discuss logistics in case there’s an emergency or if they need assistance. Perez invited Mayor Carlos Gimenez to join him since the mayor had expressed interest in visiting the facility.
Perez said during their discussions they talked about public safety and what to do in case of an emergency, like a fire or hurricane. They then toured the facility and Perez said they were pleasantly surprised by what they found.
WATCH INTERVIEW WITH MIAMI-DADE POLICE DIRECTOR JUAN PEREZ:
“The conditions were very pristine, extremely clean conditions. The children we came across, 13 through 17 years old, appeared to be in good spirits, very friendly, interacting with each other, playing sports outside, and learning. They were being taught at the time during school hours, they had educational classes going on at the same time. So we visited both the north and south campus and again extremely pristine conditions,” he said.
Perez said while the children appeared to be well taken care of, the situation was still sad.
“All these kids came across the border unaccompanied, without any parents or guardians with them. So they’re in this waiting period here waiting to be processed, to be placed with an appropriate family member or a non-profit that is going to take these kids in and help them integrate into the community,” he said.
ABOUT THE FACILITY
The Homestead shelter, which is the only for-profit child detention center in the country, houses approximately 1,300 children, all ages 13 to 17 years old. That’s down from its peak when housed approximately 2,400 children.
It is the largest child detention center in the United States for unaccompanied minors.
The facility is run by Caliburn International, a Virginia based company awarded a government contract to manage the center.
President Donald Trump’s former Chief of Staff, General John Kelly, is on the company’s board.
Caliburn International operates the facility under a no-bid contract that is worth more than $350 million.
They are waiting to be reunited with their families or paired with sponsors once they are screened by the U.S. government.
Many of the children are fleeing gang and domestic violence and will end up seeking asylum.
Children sleep up to 12 per room in steel-framed bunk beds, and warehouse-sized, air-conditioned white tents where minors attend classes and watch movies.
The facility has a command center. Inside are cameras, computers, and staff members who watch over the kids. They keep track of how many kids are in the shelter and how many are moved.
While numbers vary, officials say most are reunited with family members. Those who are not can be at the shelter for as long as 57 days. On average, a child’s stay there is about 25 days.
The children have school six hours a day and there are recreational activities.
At night, lights go out in the rooms at 10 p.m. but are left on in the hallways. The children are awakened each day at 6:30 a.m. for a full day’s program of activities and classes.
During the day, the kids are provided breakfast, lunch, dinner, and three snacks.
The children meet with their attorneys once a week. They also have access to clinicians and social workers.
On their arrival, they are given a five day supply of clothes, laundry is done every other day.
The facility, contracted by the Department of Health and Human Services, is surrounded by chain-link fence, but there is no barbed wire. There are guards, but they are not armed. Doors have been removed from the dormitory bedrooms.