Georgia city urged to reject migrant children shelter

MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) — A Georgia pastor trying to open a shelter for unaccompanied migrant children in federal custody is getting pushback from people in an Atlanta suburb who call his efforts morally offensive.

Six people urged the city of Marietta to deny the shelter proposed by Mitchell Bryant, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The pastor wants to use a vacant building that previously housed a residential drug treatment program for teenagers to house up to 50 unaccompanied migrant children.

“Current immigration policy includes separating children from their parents, or other responsible caregivers,” the letter reads. “This is an issue that must violate the moral sensibility of every citizen of Marietta.”

Bryant, pastor of the Atlanta Pavilion Fellowship Church in Stone Mountain, has said he has no experience running any children's shelters, but has partners lined up to help establish the facility. He declined to provide a list of those partners to the newspaper.

His proposal was approved by Marietta's Zoning Board of Appeals in October, but a challenge by attorney Ronna Woodruff will be considered by the City Council on Dec. 11. Woodruff argues that the building is in poor condition and lacks accommodations for children, including play and green space. Now even the vacant property's owner, former Marietta councilman Philip Goldstein, has added his voice to those fighting the shelter, asking the city on Wednesday to withdraw the pastor's application.

Bryant is the managing partner of the nonprofit Freemont Grace Human Services, which applied last month for a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement grant to staff and renovate the building. He told the newspaper he hasn't yet heard back about the application's status.

No lease has been signed for the Marietta property yet, Bryant said. If they can't reach a deal, he said he plans to continue searching for another building in the Atlanta area.