Tucson, Ariz., Jul 11, 2019 / 05:17 pm (CNA).- A Catholic agency in Tucson, Arizona is hoping to transform an unused portion of a juvenile detention center into housing facilities for immigrants seeking asylum.
Since January, Catholic Community Services in Arizona has housed asylum seekers in the local Benedictine Monastery, the third largest shelter for migrants in the United States, according to the Sahuarita Sun. Due to monastery renovations, they must relocate later this month.
Arizona Public Media reported this week that a $100 one-year renewable lease is currently being drawn up for the organization to use a portion of the Pima County’s Juvenile Justice Complex.
The county board of supervisors must approve the move during the next board meeting in August.
The justice complex can hold 350 people, but currently houses less than 50. Catholic Community Services is hoping to use the additional 300 beds, plus an attached kitchen and laundry room, in a portion of the facility that is separate from the area still used as a juvenile detention center.
Bishop Edward Weisenburger of Tucson said the justice complex will provide a safer and healthier environment to shelter the migrants, who typically stay no longer than a few days.
“Even though the monastery was a lovely environment, it was not setup in its infrastructure for our needs. The plumbing system especially was a real challenge,” he said, according to Arizona Public Media.
The county would pay for operating costs, and would then request reimbursement from the federal government, which is responsible for the immigrants seeking asylum, the Sahuarita Sun reports.
Some renovations will be necessary, to make the space more comfortable and inviting. Jan Lesher, chief deputy county administrator, stressed that the asylum seekers are not being imprisoned, and the building will be altered to reflect that.
“What we hope to do is make it as seamless as possible for those who live in the community and those asylum seekers passing through,” she told Arizona Public Media.