BELTON — Bell County could temporarily house child-age sex trafficking victims at a Killeen juvenile facility under a proposed partnership with a nonprofit organization.
During a workshop meeting Monday, the Bell County Commissioners Court met with representatives from BCFS, a San Antonio-based nonprofit group, to discuss a potential partnership in which a portion of the Bell County Juvenile Detention Center in Killeen would be used as a shelter.
“What we’re setting the ground for is a grant application for the new funding available,” Bell County Judge Jon Burrows said, referencing a grant program operated by the Texas Governor’s Office for a transitional housing initiative. “You need a place and that would be a part of that.”
The application for the funding is due Feb. 20.
Because the Commissioners Court is not scheduled to meet before the deadline, Burrows will call for a special meeting later this week to decide whether it will support the grant.
This week, county officials will have to draft a lease agreement and preliminary budget for the deal.
“We’re going to have to move faster than I move,” Burrows said jokingly.
Burrows emphasized that the county does not want to make money off of this partnership.
“Our main concern is the manpower on the administrative part,” he said. “We’re hoping to keep that minimal.”
Under the proposal, Bell County would essentially act as a landlord, providing a building for BCFS — which, until 1996, stood for Baptist Children and Family Services — to shelter sex trafficking victims.
The victims would be housed separately from juvenile offenders who were arrested and placed at the detention center.
If the county moves forward on this partnership, the lease agreement will be based upon the grant funding periods.
Commissioner John Fisher said the partnership is a great idea.
Bell County District Attorney Henry Garza, who is a member of the Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Round Table, said the shelter will fill a gap in Bell County.
He said there are a limited number of places where victims can be sheltered.
“One of the things that we’ve seen that’s been an issue is what do we do with the child in the interim?” Garza said. “We want them in a safe environment.”