Southwest Key is a large ($240+ million income and at least $15 million annual surplus) nonprofit in the business of "youth justice" services. A large nonprofit chunk of its income (90%+) comes from federal contracts in multiple states to run institutions like immigration detention centers (you know, prisons for folks who do not have US Citizenship and may or may not eventually be allowed to stay so must await in a "secure" facility the government's decision about their future). And, Southwest Key has a small board presumably comprised of citizens who care about youth.
But as might not be surprising, Southwest Key programs experience challenges that include the one described in the following Washington Post story where Southwest wants to use a former emergency homeless shelter for an undocumented minor detention center. And this where the idea of community engagement governance could make a difference. Community engagement governance would have the Southwest Key not make decisions in isolation like the one they are making in this article. Instead, an ongoing consultation with the community around strategic challenges and interests could make life a win-win for the institution and the community and its constituents. Given its business, it's not clear that Southwest Key would want consultation but this certainly serves as an important illustration as to how isolated nonprofit governance does not in the end, ever, achieve mission.
From the Washington Post
HOUSTON — Houston officials on Wednesday pushed back on claims that a detention facility being proposed in the city to house unaccompanied immigrant children is close to opening.
The facility would house about 200 unaccompanied minors at a building that had previously been used as a homeless shelter and a temporary shelter for Hurricane Harvey evacuees.
The proposed facility has been opposed by local officials and community leaders, including Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, since plans for it were first made public in June. When it was first announced, the facility was set to house children who had been separated from their parents after illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. The Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents has since been stopped.
On Tuesday, state Sen. Sylvia Garcia sent a tweet saying she’d been told by an attorney for the nonprofit proposing the facility that it could open this week if it passes state inspection.
A city permit had initially been issued to Southwest Key, an Austin-based nonprofit, to operate a shelter where individuals would be able to come in and out, Peña said. But local officials have since learned that the intended use of the facility has changed from sheltering children to detaining them, meaning Southwest Key will have to apply for a new permit, Peña said.
“We communicated this to Southwest Key on several occasions about the need to change the facility use,” he said. “As it stands now, the current (permit) will not be sufficient to house” the children.
Patrick Key, an assistant director with the Houston Health Department, said Southwest Key has also not requested a city permit to serve food at the facility.
Houston officials say the different city permits need to be issued before the facility can open.
In a statement, Southwest Key officials said they were “reviewing the comments by city officials and continue to talk with the state about licensing.” Southwest spokesman Jeff Eller said the nonprofit would not be making any additional comment on the status of the facility.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission said Wednesday that the application for a state permit for the facility is still being evaluated.