City to mull request for foster care shelter; Hands of Healing would create 50 jobs

HARLINGEN — A foster care agency wants to open a boys’ shelter expected to create about 50 jobs.

City commissioners are set to hold a public hearing Wednesday before voting on the first reading for Hands of Healing Residential Treatment Center’s request for a special use permit to open the shelter that would house about 30 boys from 8 to 17 years old.

So far, the city’s Planning & Zoning board members have approved the Baytown-based organization’s request to open the shelter at 2032 N. 77 Sunshine Strip, a 2.6-acre site zoned in a light-industry district away from neighborhoods.

“This one’s going to be in a retail area so we don’t anticipate any issues,” Assistant City Manager Gabriel Gonzalez said Tuesday.

The shelter would open about 50 jobs, including positions for treatment specialists, case managers and youth care workers, Gayle Curry, who applied for the permit, said.

“I’m glad to hear they’re going to create jobs,” Gonzalez said, adding the facility would be the city’s only foster care shelter.

The shelter would house boys referred by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, said Edna Martinez-Hernandez, Hands of Healing’s program administrative assistant in Harlingen.

“They either have mood disorders or emotional needs or trauma that requires additional services,” she said. “It’s just on-going residential treatment.”

In her application, Curry described the shelter as a “24-hour residential facility providing highly structured and specialized services in a home-like atmosphere for youth.”

The organization plans turn a 6,000-square-foot building made up of eight bedrooms into a shelter licensed under the Department of Family and Protective Services, the application states.

“Services provided will include education, individual and group counseling, recreation, behavior management, life skills, family involvement and therapeutic services for youth with emotional disturbances and challenges,” the organization states.

“Oversight of this program will be provided by a team of experienced, licensed administrators. Program services will be provided by qualified, experienced and trained staff able to meet the various and unique needs of the resident population.”

The fenced 2.6-acre site made up of two buildings formerly housed a migrant children’s shelter operated by International Educational Services, the Los Fresnos-based organization that shut down in 2018.