(LOS ANGELES) — As the government deals with a huge flow of children crossing the border into the U.S. illegally without their parents, it is now opening shelters to house them in dorms longer term.
One of those shelters is located at Naval Base Ventura County in Southern California. Run by the Department of Health and Human Services, it opened last Friday and is already housing nearly 200 children.
The shelter expects to be at capacity — 575 children — by Tuesday.
ABC News’ Alex Stone got rare access to the shelter, located deep within the naval base, on Thursday.
“It looks a lot like a school. There is a soccer field that just opened up. With the World Cup on, the children are playing a lot of soccer here,” Stone said.
“Inside there are classrooms where English and art are taught. There are medical offices and dorms. The children get linens, clothes and a stuffed animal when they get here to make them feel more comfortable,” he continued.
Stone said many of the children at the shelter speak very little, if any, English.
“As they passed by us, many smiled and said hello. But it’s hard to tell if they’re scared or happy to be in the U.S.,” he recalled.
In art class, many of the children were seen painting flags of their home countries. “I saw flags from Honduras and Guatemala, so clearly there is some connection to their home countries,” Stone noted.
While the goal is to house the children temporarily, it is not clear how long many of them will be at the shelter.
“It’s supposed to be a temporary stay until their families or what they call a vetted sponsor can be found to take the children with the promise of getting them to an immigration hearing, but there are so many children here it’s unclear how long some may stay,” Stone said.
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