VIRGINIA BEACH — Kings Grant residents reached a compromise this month with a local church that plans to temporarily house unaccompanied migrant children who have crossed the southern U.S. border illegally and are waiting to be reunited with family living in the United States.
The City Council unanimously approved changes to a permit for what used to be a group home for runaway teen girls on the property of St. Nicholas Catholic Church, but only after the community agreed to certain conditions.
The applicant, Commonwealth Catholic Charities, agreed only girls between the ages of 5 and 17, and boys between the ages of 5 to 12 will be allowed to live in the building at 642 N. Lynnhaven Road. The charity had originally wanted to allow boys up to age 17, but neighbors had concerns about teenagers living together. The minors will be able to stay in the home for up to 60 days; the applicant had originally wanted it to be 90 days.
The City Council deferred a vote on the matter at a meeting in May after several speakers from the community said they wanted more information about the group home.
The compromises came after the church and Commonwealth Catholic Charities hosted a town hall last Thursday, allowing residents to air their concerns.
Several speakers at Tuesday’s meeting expressed their support of a group home, including one member of the church who had previously opposed it.
Councilman Chris Taylor, who lives in Kings Grant and represents District 8 where the group home is located, said he was initially disappointed in the applicant’s lack of public engagement. But Taylor said he felt good about it after the town hall, which he participated in, and the subsequent concessions.
Before the vote, Taylor implored his colleagues to support the permit.
“The right decision is to allow this applicant to move forward with their mission to help these children,” Taylor said.
Potential residents of the group home will come to Virginia Beach from an intake facility in Texas, according to Commonwealth Catholic Charities.
Nearly 130,000 migrant children entered the U.S. government’s shelter system in fiscal year 2022, a record high. Approximately 72% of those referred to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services were older than 14, and 64% were boys, according to the department.
Stacy Parker, 757-222-5125, email@example.com