CORRECTION: The on-air report and previous online version of this story incorrectly identified the division of Catholic Charities making the request for the group home. WAVY-TV apologizes for the error.
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Unaccompanied migrant children crossing into the United States via the southern border could soon be living temporarily in the Kings Grant area.
Commonwealth Catholic Charities has put forward a proposal to house children between the ages of 5 and 17 at the longtime former home of Seton Youth Shelters on the campus of St. Nicholas Catholic Church.
The goal is to reunite them with family members living in the United States.
In order for that to happen, Virginia Beach City Council must approve modifying the property’s conditional use permit for a group home.
A vote was supposed to be held May 16. However, Catholic Charities requested a deferral until June 20 at the urging of district Councilman Chris Taylor.
An informational meeting has been scheduled for June 15, as some in the community have raised concerns about the idea.
“The main issue for me as the councilmember was the lack of public engagement and Catholic Charities agreed they didn’t do a robust job engaging the community,” Taylor said.
Taylor, who is in his first time as a councilman, said he has received a lot of letters of support for the charity’s mission. But just as many are against it.
Notably, he said concerns have surrounded safety and image.
The group home will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week with a staff member onsite at all times according to planning documents. The children will not be going into the public school system. Rather, necessary services will be held on-site, including educational, nutritional and mental services.
In addition, the Virginia Beach Planning Commission added recommended requirements that no child be allowed to stay at the home for more than three months and no more than 10 children could be staying inside the home at one time.
Taylor said it’s likely those who end up living in the home won’t be in Virginia Beach or Hampton Roads long.
“This is just a stop on their journey,” Taylor said. “It appears this center is going to be targeting siblings so they don’t have to separate.”
City Council members they will receive financial aid through the Virginia Department of Social Services.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is required to provide care for unaccompanied children who are encountered at the border.
The topic of the border can be polarizing. Taylor hopes the meeting can be respectful.
“I heard some concerns that it would indicate that the city would be supporting illegal immigration. Those were some of the concerns,” Taylor said. “(I) hope that people will come out and express their concerns or support (and) get their questions answered.”
The meeting is set for 6 p.m., June 15 at St. Nicholas Catholic Church.