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Plans resume to transform Pima County facility into new migrant shelter

TUCSON — The plan to renovate parts of the former Pima County Juvenile Detention Center into a migrant shelter will move forward Saturday night.

This comes after some local leaders questioned the optics of using what was once a detention center as temporary housing for migrants and asylum seekers.

“Anybody who’s opposing this thing and wants to dig their heels in,” Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik said, “and say we’re not accepting that facility because it used to be “X” and is going to turn into “Y” is going to have to own the opportunity of street releases by order patrol if we don’t have a place to move on Aug 1.”

Kozachik has been at the forefront of this issue for months.

Since January, the Benedictine Monastery has housed more than 12,000 asylum seekers and migrants.

Catholic Community Services lease on the monastery is up in a few weeks.

“We’ve looked at vacant schools, we’ve looked at vacant warehouses, we’ve looked at medical facilities, we’ve looked at all kinds of possibilities,” Kozachik said.

Some TUSD school board members and leaders favored using vacant schools as a shelter.

News 4 Tucson learned two former TUSD schools proposed earlier this week are now off the table.

Artwork from children staying at the monastery now line the walls of Kozachik’s Ward 6 office. He believes the former juvenile detention center checks all the boxes.

“The facility has to hold a couple hundred people, it needs a commercial kitchen, it needs showers, we need to have room for triage, need room for sleeping corridors, ideally an activity area for people,” Kozachik said. “This isn’t an empty building where you can throw some cots down.”

Pima County Supervisor Richard Elias told News 4 Tucson: “We’re back on with renovations at the former Pima County Juvenile Detention Center. We will continue to listen to all voices in our community so our migrants guests are treated with dignity.”

“It’s now all hands on deck, let’s all point in the same direction, let’s make this a welcoming site.

The board will hold a vote to approve the lease of this county facility to Catholic Community Services for $100 per year on Aug. 6.

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