At least 13 deficiency citations have been filed against the shelter at the former Walmart in Brownsville, which seemingly overnight became a symbol of the housing scramble after a Democratic lawmaker, Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, showed up unannounced to take a tour but was turned away by police escort. Mr. Merkley’s attempt to gain entry this month, captured on Facebook Live by a member of his staff, put national attention on the shelter, which is run by a nonprofit group that contracts with a federal agency.
…The shelter, called Casa Padre, is a world all its own, much of it invisible to outsiders. The few windows are covered in black mesh; in the parking lot, yellow-painted wooden barricades read, “Keep Out.”
…The industry for sheltering young migrants had run into trouble here even before the latest boom. Hundreds of shelter workers in the Rio Grande Valley were laid off at the end of March, after several sites run on contract to the federal government by a private organization, International Educational Services, suddenly shut down. The organization, known as I.E.S., lost its federal financing and shuttered its shelters and other facilities, for reasons that federal officials have yet to publicly explain.