LUTZ, Fla. - A shelter for abandoned and neglected children is set to close in March.
A nonprofit who helped build the Lutz shelter from the ground up is trying to stop that from happening.
The nonprofit Friends of Joshua House once gifted the land at 1515 Michelin Court to the Children’s Home Society of Florida. Now, CHS says it is exiting residential care but Friends of Joshua House is asking the property back.
"We want to buy it back at current use and a reasonable price," said DeDe Grundel, executive director for Friends of Joshua House Foundation.
CHS says it is allowed 36 beds and currently has 19 children. Since November, it has helped 12 children transition back home or to other foster homes.
DeDe Grundel with Friends of Joshua House worries about what the shelter’s shut down could mean.
"I think it harms our community by taking beds away from our children," she said.
CHS couldn’t speak on camera with ABC Action News by the time of air but did respond and released a statement over email.
"Decades of research is directing us to refocus our work on prevention and behavioral health, and we are centering our efforts on preventing entries into foster care so we can improve lifetime outcomes for children," said Shawn Naugle, regional executive director with Children's Home Society of Florida.
Below is a statement released by Naugle:
CHS also points to the Family First Preventive Services Act for its exit. It gives more money for parenting classes and in-home counseling and limits money for group homes.
Grundel accuses CHS of ignoring a 2004 legal agreement with Friends of Joshua House. CHS denies this. Grundel says a lawsuit isn't off the table.
"Yes, we’re willing to take whatever action is necessary to settle this and to put Joshua House back into action," she said.
CHS says it is unable to comment citing a confidentiality agreement. The Joshua House is now listed for sale.