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As many as 1,300 children may be living at the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children — a number that has been slowly climbing since Monday, when the fact that the facility had been reopened was made public.
The latest number was cited Thursday night by a security guard who was speaking about the importance of security on the premises, saying his main concern was that someone might try to jump over the fence and harm the “1,300 kids” inside. He declined to give his name but appeared to oversee a group of security workers at the facility’s main entrance at Ramy Avenue and Bougainville Boulevard.
On Monday, the Miami Herald reported that the facility reopened a few months ago after closing last year amid a decline in illegal border crossings into the United States, which resulted in a decreased need to house unaccompanied minors.
The facility is overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services and was previously thought to have 1,000 beds. But Comprehensive Health Services, a Cape Canaveral contractor that is running the facility, according to federal procurement documents, posted a $30 million contract in February for 500 beds in Homestead. That request was amended to 1,000 beds in May.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz first revealed to the public Monday that the Homestead facility had been reopened. Michael Liquerman, a spokesman for Wasserman Schultz, said her office was told 1,000 kids were there. Another congressional source believed the facility had a capacity of 1,000 beds.
On Tuesday, Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for Health and Human Services (HHS), told El Nuevo Herald 391 girls and 801 boys were housed there, a total of 1,192. Wolfe did not immediately respond to an inquiry Thursday night regarding the accuracy of the 1,300 figure.
Earlier in the week, Wolfe described the location in an email as an “active temporary unaccompanied alien children program facility.” He did not disclose the circumstances under which the children arrived there.
On Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said he learned from HHS officials that there were 94 children in the Homestead facility who had been separated from their families at the border. The others were children — mostly teenagers — who had come across the border without their parents.
Nelson says he has been granted permission to tour the facility on Saturday.