Convention center to house unaccompanied minors seeking asylum

Local

SAN DIEGO — The San Diego Convention Center will be used as a temporary shelter for unaccompanied children seeking asylum, city and county officials announced Monday.

A date is still being finalized for when the convention center will become a temporary respite for unaccompanied migrant children up to age 17. When it’s up and running, the site will be used for approximately three months.

Officials said the average stay for each child will be 30-35 days. They will be provided with food, medical care, a place to sleep and showers. A recreation area will be created on the exterior of the facility.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher said the decision was made this weekend to offer up the space to the federal government.

“When HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra requested our help to house some of the unaccompanied minors at the border, we knew it was the right thing to do,” Gloria and Fletcher said in a joint statement Monday. “We are working closely with our federal partners to finalize the details for preparing to receive these young people and provide them with care, compassion and a safe space to transition while they are reunited with families or sponsors.”

The convention center will house children who were separated from their family, orphans and others who were sent to the U.S. by parents with hopes of delivering their children to safety away from trauma, poverty and danger in their home country, officials said.

Children will be required to stay at the convention center until reunification occurs.

The Health and Human Services Refugee Resettlement Program is funding the temporary shelter. Other partners include the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Center for Disease Control and San Diego Convention Center.

The convention center formerly served as a shelter for the homeless during the coronavirus pandemic. Operation Shelter to Home is winding down this week after nearly 1,300 individuals and 43 families found permanent or longer-term housing in the year the shelter was open.

Some downtown businesses say that while they sympathize with the situation, there were hoping for a return to normal operations at the convention center after the shelter winds down.

“Things are opened back up and the locals are doing pretty good at supporting us but we really need those conventions back,” said Danny Ayer of San Diego Pedicab Tours. “I mean, the rent’s not cheap down here.”

The county partnered with Jewish Family Service of San Diego, the San Diego Rapid Response Network and the State of California two years ago to provide services and temporary shelter for families seeking asylum. They were housed at a closed county courthouse after the Trump Administration started releasing migrants in border communities.

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