Southwest Key to close Combes migrant children shelter

COMBES — A national organization sheltering thousands of migrant children will shut down a shelter here, citing an “unexpected loss of federal funding.”

Southwest Key will close its Casa Combes shelter at 23011 Rio Rancho Road, where it houses as many as 69 migrant children, spokesman Neil Nowlin stated yesterday.

Nowlin stated a shelter in Conroe, licensed to house 160 children, will also close.

“Based on a variety of issues, we have recently moved to terminate two of our leases, a shelter in Conroe and shelter in Harlingen named Casa Combes,” Nowlin stated.

The Austin-based nonprofit, contracted by the federal government to house migrant children detained without parents or guardians in the United States, continues to operate shelters in San Benito and other locations.

“Our plan is to move youth to other Southwest Key shelters,” Nowlin stated.

In Harlingen, the school district entered into an agreement with Southwest Key to educate children in the small Combes shelter in late 2013.

Nowlin did not disclose the number of employees working at Combes shelters.

At Cameron Workforce Solutions, officials did not have information on the number of employees who could face layoffs as a result of the closing of the Combes shelter.

However, apparently the Combes shelter employs a full-time teacher and part-time teacher.

Southwest Key told the Texas Workforce Commission 197 employees would be laid off at its Conroe shelter.

“Unfortunately, this will have an impact on some of our staff,” Nowlin stated. “But we are working hard to minimize it.”

Until last year, the Harlingen school district sent some of its students to the Combes shelter, Shane Strubhart, the district’s spokesman, said.

“We’d send them a few students that qualified for their services,” Strubhart said yesterday.

Then last summer, the Texas Education Agency announced it will stop allowing school districts to use state money to educate migrant children in federal detention.

The state’s decision led to a major loss of federal money.