LONG BEACH (CBSLA) — Friday was the first full day for dozens of children at the migrant shelter in Long Beach set up at the city’s convention center.
About 100 children were getting processed and settled at the facility, fleeing dangerous situations in their home countries.
Jessica Quintana, the executive director of Centro CHA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the improvement and advancement of Latinx people, toured the convention center before the children were welcomed in.
She was part of the mayor’s meeting of nonprofits to help plan for the arrival of the unaccompanied migrant children from the southern border.
“So what happened at the border — those are cages! They were never meant for children and it’s despicable, so what happening in Long Beach in our space is a welcoming site for our children,” Quintana said. “I was amazed the transformation happened the way it did.”
Cots were placed with bedding and stuffed animals, and there are recreation areas, game rooms, and learning centers as well for the children.
“What makes our space great in Long Beach is that they’re able to go outdoors so there’s a private space where kids can go outside and get fresh air and have in outdoor activity,” Quintana said.
According to Quintana, there is a 3-to-1 ratio for supervision for the younger children and an 8-to-1 ratio for older children.
Although the Department of Health and Human Services isn’t releasing specifics about the first group of children who arrived yesterday, the facility will be taking boys and girls from 3 to 11 years old, as well as teenaged girls.
The point of bringing the children there is to reunify them with their families already in the United States. Meantime, they are expected to have access to educational services as well as medical and emotional support.
“In their countries, their conditions are so bad so if you can imagine as a parent to send your child off by themselves or in a caravan what kind of desperate situation you are feeling,” Quintana said.
And although many are offering to help, organizers say cash is best. However, community organizations are also trying to collect a few things the kids are requesting.
“A lot of the things the kids have asked for are books but they’ve also asked for personal rosaries,” Quintana said. “We’re doing the best we can to provide a safe, happy place for the children.”
The Department of Health and Human Services says they will only accept new children every other day, to make sure each group can get the attention they need, and get settled before bringing in new children.