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Local agencies support immigrant children

Rochester, N.Y. - Local agencies are working to put together a plan for temporary housing for immigrant children.

A huge influx of children is entering the U.S. illegally from South America and the federal government is looking across the country for housing options.

Villa of Hope, former St. Joseph's Villa, President and CEO Christina Gullo said, "We are in the business of taking care of kids whether they come from Guatemala or El Salvador, or they're here in our backyard or in another county."

As of Friday, the former nursing home Blossom South was the only location offered as a space.

"It's a process that would take some time," said Gullo. "First we would have to go look at any available space. We haven't done that yet."

Additional big steps include holding a public hearing and getting the federal government's approval on a location. It's a process that will likely take months.

"A lot of people are concerned about the medical pieces that the youth come with like if they're all going to come with tuberculosis and they're all going to come with gang involvement and violence," said Gullo. "That's really not the case."

Other agencies have joined in this effort, including the Ibero Americation Action League.

President and CEO Hilda Rosario-Escher said, "We have to do something. We have to open our arms to those kids and I know this community really cares."

Gullo and Rosario-Escher both said the federal government would cover all costs.

This can include immunizations and dental work. The temporary housing program would also provide pro bono legal services.

The children would be in temporary housing facilities for a couple weeks, and then go to a sponsor family that can be located throughout the country.

Hillside Family of Agencies also told 13WHAM, "Our deep care and concern for the health and well-being of any child transcends political and geographical boundaries. The issue of providing services to support children who come into the United States from other countries without an adult guardian is complex and requires careful consideration and collaboration among our local officials, our neighborhoods and community service provider agencies in order to fully understand what would be required to provide a high level of care for these children. Hillside is involved in the ongoing community conversation and exploring ways to partner with other agencies to provide appropriate services if our community is called upon to support these youth."

Gullo said she is well aware of the opposition. She hopes the community will support the program after learning more. She plans on holding informational meetings in the future.

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren held a meeting Thursday with more than a dozen agencies. She said, "We went to our children organizations and said if this were to happen here you have to lead it. It can't come from us and so they will do their diligence, talk to their board and see if it's an option."

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Washington Times