DENVER (CBS4) – The city applied for a three-year federal grant on Tuesday to provide, if asked by the federal government, temporary shelter care and support for children who arrive unaccompanied in the United States from Central America.
“We are faced with a humanitarian crisis,” Mayor Michael Hancock said in a statement. “This city has never shied away from doing what’s right, and this is the right thing to do.”
The application wasn’t unexpected. The city said in July it would likely seek the grants.
If the U.S. government awards the city the grant, it would work with the city’s child welfare division, Denver Health and Lutheran Family Services to provide shelter and care for 60 children. The children would live for about a month on average in an underused family shelter called the Family Crisis Center.
“Denver has a strong refugee resettlement network that has been placing refugees from areas of international conflict since 1980,” said Executive Director of Human Services Penny May. “Denver is equipped to help in the capacity we can, and we are ready and willing to do so.”
An Arapahoe County-based organization called Rite of Passage, which assists troubled youth, was in discussions in July with the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement to possibly house children in Watkins at the Ridge View Youth Services Center, a 500-bed facility.
Hancock told CBS4 in late July that the city’s application is partly a fiscally responsible move — in case the federal government decided to move some of the children to Colorado.
The federal money will ease the financial burden to Denver taxpayers and no city resources are used for the federal program.
“We don’t want chaos. We don’t want any other negatives that people talk about,” Hancock said then. “The reality is that this is a city that has always stepped up and proven we care about kids.”
Since Oct. 1, more than 57,000 children have fled Central America because of violence and gang wars. Some of the children have been housed at U.S. military bases. Others have been cared for by smaller cities — some willingly, others not — near the U.S.-Mexico border.
Critics, especially those living in small towns where children have been housed, say their communities aren’t equipped to deal with the influx of children.