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Dallas Prepares To Provide Housing, Health Care For Immigrant Children

DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) - The tens of thousands of immigrant children who somehow make their way to America do so not knowing the language or what will happen next. But local leaders are calling on North Texans to put politics aside, and respond as parents.

"This is such a different issue because we're talking about children—and children by themselves," says Susan Hoff, Chief Strategy and Operations Officer for the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. "That changes the game."

According to Hoff, a number of their member agencies are preparing to assist—most likely in the management of the emergency shelters. "The Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, the Red Cross… these are organizations that are really poised to meet emergency needs in all types of situations and I think those will be some of our front line service providers."

Dallas Independent School District has confirmed that they are working with Dallas County and federal agencies to perhaps turn some vacant schools into shelters-- those buildings are preferred because of existing playgrounds and cafeteria facilities— but, no exact locations have been announced. The timeline calls for the shelters to be established by the end of July.

"We spent the weekend talking with neighbors, talking with stakeholders in those neighborhoods," says Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price. "There are at least three locations in Dallas County… as far as I'm concerned, we are primarily focusing on one."

And while housing the children will be a major logistical undertaking, local leaders are also making plans to address the vast health care needs as well.

Parkland Hospital will be involved and Dallas County Health and Human Services is preparing to immunize and screen the thousands of children who most likely have had no previous preventative care. So while the situation may appear to be a 'hurry up and wait', there is still much work to be done.

"The most important thing we can do as a community is to plan and prepare and be ready," says Hoff, "because we know those children are coming."

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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