San Diego County considers using vacant county building as migrant shelter

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – San Diego County Supervisors will consider a proposal on Tuesday to use an empty public building in Downtown San Diego as a shelter for migrant families.

A coalition of non-profit groups, led by Jewish Family Service, asked the supervisors for help after learning it must leave the building where it is operating a shelter on February 15.

The temporary shelter in the South Bay began operating last November after a change in federal policy for immigrant families who were allowed to enter the United States to begin the asylum process.

The federal government used to assist the asylum seekers in finding transportation to family members and sponsors in other parts of the nation. However, the Department of Homeland Security terminated that practice in late October, and began to leave hundreds of families in Downtown San Diego without food, shelter or money for transportation.

Since that time, a coalition of non-profit groups, called the San Diego Rapid Response Network, have operated a temporary shelter where families typically stay for one to three days. Those families receive health screenings and caseworkers assist with travel arrangements to reunite the migrant families with relatives.

According to Kate Clark of Jewish Family Services,”We immediately allow the families to get into contact with their families across the United States to ensure their safety and then basically transport and travel them to their final destination.”

In a meeting of the County Supervisors earlier this month, the Network asked the board to find unused county properties that could be used for a temporary shelter. Supervisors Nathan Fletcher and Greg Cox are proposing the now shuttered family courthouse at 6th and Cedar as a location for the new migrant shelter. “This location is scheduled to be demolished and turned into affordable housing. But we have flexibility in that construction is several years off,” Fletcher said.

The non-profit groups will cover all the costs of running the shelter. The county will provide health screenings for the shelter occupants, but no other public money will be involved. Those who oppose the proposal said the county should be directing its resources to helping others, such as the men and women who are currently unsheltered and living on the street.

However, Fletcher said doing nothing to help the migrant families may only add to the numbers of homeless people in San Diego.

The proposal being considered at Tuesday’s meeting would give the shelter operators permission to use the vacant courthouse until December 31.

Categories: Local San Diego News