Dozens of kids who crossed southern border illegally to be housed at North Philly facility

Cherri Gregg
January 15, 2019 - 4:00 am
Located inside of Logan Plaza on Old York Road, The Grace Dix Center will provide temporary residential housing and services for to up to 60 migrant youth between ages 13 and 17.

Cherri Gregg/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Dozens of unaccompanied minors from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador who crossed the US southern border will be housed in North Philadelphia. 

Located inside of Logan Plaza on Old York Road, The Grace Dix Center will provide temporary residential housing and services for to up to 60 migrant youth between ages 13 and 17.

"They can't be deported because they are unaccompanied," said Peter Rinalli, CEO of VisionQuest. "So we want to make sure that these kids are taken care of. It's a part of the dialogue that we don't always talk about."  

READ: Housing in Philly for children detained at US border gets a thumbs down

VisionQuest operated facilities for at-risk youth in multiple states, providing residential facilities with varying levels of security. Rinalli says they secured a federal contract for the Philadelphia facility that will reimburse up to $3.6 million a year for three years.

He says the services will include counselors, language services and case managers that are tasked with finding permanent homes for the youth - all male - as quickly as possible.

"We make sure they go from here to their sponsor or a foster parent," said Rinalli, noting that most kids find sponsors or family members that will take them in.

Rinalli says Trump administration policies require that all members of a sponsor household agree to take the youth in.

Because some homes include residents with questionable legal status, it slowed the process of finding homes for the migrant youth. However, Rinalli says the policy now requires only one person in a household grant permission, which means the youth can find housing much sooner.

"We don't think they'll be here very long," he said. "Once they're 18, they'll find independent housing."

Rinalli says they opened the facility to media to be transparent after rumors swirled that the company would be jailing kids from the border.

Reporter: "For people who thought this was a jail, it's not. Correct?"

Rinalli: "No it's not. They can leave, they can take off if they really wanted to, it's not locked."

But they won't. 

"They do want to stay here, to get some permanency," said Rinalli.

The facility, which is located on two floors of a four story building, received about $200,000 in upgrades to include dormitory style rooms, a nursing bay, a game room complete with Xbox consoles, multiple TV rooms, cafeteria facilities and more. Rinalli says the kids will get free lawyers, the chance to learn English and the opportunity to go to school.


 
Reporter: "And this is all paid for by the federal government?"

Rinalli: "Yes." 

Rinalli says they've hired 65 of the 80 employees who will man the facility. He expects about 12 boys to move in early February. 

VisionQuest operates a similar facility in Arizona; there, the kids stay an average of 90 days before they are placed.

Located inside of Logan Plaza on Old York Road, The Grace Dix Center will provide temporary residential housing and services for to up to 60 migrant youth between ages 13 and 17.
Cherri Gregg/KYW Newsradio

Pennsylvania state Senator Sharif Street toured the facility and applauded the effort to help the migrant youth.

"We should be making sure that every child is getting a thorough and efficient education," he said. 

The Grace Dix Center will begin to house migrant children next month, starting with 12 boys, referred through the Office of Refugee Resettlement. The company hired a caterer, and is partnering with Esperanza and Hispanic CareerLink to recruit for jobs.