Pima County supervisors will vote next week on whether to turn an empty juvenile detention center into transitional housing for migrant families dropped in Tucson by the Border Patrol. Officials gave a tour Wednesday to explain how they hope to transform the space.
Teresa Cavendish with Catholic Community Services took visitors through an unused wing at the Pima County Juvenile Justice Complex, which her group hopes to turn into a kind of dorm where migrant families can stay as they work out travel plans. Job one is redecorating the place so their guests don't feel as if they're in jail.
"Really, it's important to us that people feel welcome and that they know that we have built this place is our way to show respect for them when they come to us," Cavendish said.
Besides carpeting the concrete floors and painting murals on the cinder block walls, CCS will set up centers for intake and travel processing. Locks have been removed from cell doors. Surveillance cameras installed to monitor inmates will be disabled and covered for privacy.
Cavendish says clients at the shelter will have no contact with juvenile offenders housed just a few yards away. "We have no common entrances, we have no common-use spaces, we do not see each other," she said.
Catholic Community Services must move its current migrant shelter from the old Benedictine Monastery by Aug. 6. Cavendish is confident they can make the tight deadline, assuming county supervisors approve the move on Monday.