HOUSTON BUSINESS JOURNAL - Austin-based Southwest Key Programs Inc. has sued the city of Houston for allegedly obstructing the nonprofit company’s “good faith efforts to operate an immigrant youth housing shelter” in the city, according to a lawsuit filed Sept. 14.
News surfaced earlier this year that Southwest Key had leased a facility at 419 Emancipation Ave. and applied for a license to house up to 240 children there. The facility — which Star of Hope used a homeless shelter from about 1997 to 2016 and more recently served as a shelter for people displaced by Hurricane Harvey — would be Southwest Key’s fourth immigrant youth shelter in Houston and would be called the Casa Sunzal Shelter, per the lawsuit. The nonprofit contracts with the federal government to operate its 26 such shelters in Texas, Arizona and California.
In June, the facility received a certificate of occupancy authorizing its use as a “shelter/dormitory” — with a residential use classification — from the city’s Department of Public Works and a “safety survey approval” and fire permits from the Fire Marshal’s Office, according to the lawsuit. Additionally, the Public Works Department on June 15 “reported to the press, through its spokesperson: ‘As far as the City is concerned, [Southwest Key] has everything they need to operate,’” and a spokesman for the city said the shelter “‘is privately owned and up to date on its permits,’” the lawsuit states.