Sheltering migrant youth looked like a steady revenue stream for the private defense company Caliburn just a few months ago. The private-equity backed firm operated the Homestead temporary influx shelter, the nation’s largest for-profit shelter, in Florida, pulling in nearly $400 million since March 2018, based on Forbes’ estimates. But now that business has been shut down, as the federal government confirmed on Monday morning that all migrant children have been removed from the facility.
“[T]oday, we are announcing that all [unaccompanied children] sheltered in the Homestead facility have either been reunified with an appropriate sponsor or transferred to a state-licensed facility within the [federal] network of care providers as of August 3, 2019,” said Evelyn Stauffer, a spokesperson with the Administration for Children and Families, in a statement on Monday. In June, there were 2,550 unaccompanied minors at Homestead, according to Forbes’ reporting, but that number fell rapidly to 990 by July 22. In the 18 months that it remained open, the Homestead temporary shelter housed 14,300 unaccompanied minors.
“No child should be detained ever again, let alone in large-scale, highly restricted settings like Homestead for prolonged periods of time. These temporary emergency facilities are never a home for children,” Amnesty International said in a statement on Saturday. Caliburn has not responded to a request for comment.
While the children have been removed from the premises, the Department of Health and Human Services said it will still make the Homestead facility available in the event of an emergency situation. According to the latest statement, HHS plans to retain the Homestead facility but reduce its capacity from 2,700 beds to 1,200. In April, the capacity at Homestead was increased to 3,200 beds, but then was reduced to 2,700 in response to a decrease in the number of migrant children in federal custody. In anticipation of accommodating more migrant children, the federal government opened a second temporary shelter in Carrizo Springs in July but shut it down in less than a month, citing a drop in migration.
“The number of referrals is unpredictable,” the Department of Health and Human Services stated on its “fact sheet” for the Homestead facility, dated July 22. “Because of the large fluctuations in arrival numbers throughout the year, [the Office of Refugee Resettlement] maintains a mix of ‘standard’ beds that are available year-round, and ‘temporary’ beds that can be added or reduced as needed.”
The Homestead facility had become a political target this year, attracting protestors from all over the country who picketed outside the facility and demanded that the government reunite the kids with their relatives. In June, a dozen Democratic presidential candidates visited the shelter and questioned the morality of detaining children right after General John Kelly, President Trump’s former chief of staff, joined the board of directors of Caliburn. A month later, a report by Amnesty International called for closing the facility, arguing that children’s rights were being violated.
“Private facilities that house [unaccompanied minors], including our Homestead Facility, have been the subject of protests and negative media attention which could escalate in the future,” Caliburn stated in a private offering memorandum in April. According to the Financial Times, the company has been trying to privately sell a majority stake after pulling its public offering last March.
“[If] political pressure, lawsuits, or other actions cause HHS to close our Homestead Facility and potentially prevent us from operating such facilities, our business results, operations, and growth would be adversely affected,” the April memorandum said.