SAN DIEGO -- On Wednesday, FOX 5 got an inside look at a shelter where asylum-seeking families are currently being housed in downtown San Diego.
Earlier this year, the County Board of Supervisors voted to use a county-owned building as a temporary migrant shelter that officially opened in March. For security reasons, media has been asked not to disclose the exact location of the shelter or to show the faces of the families staying there.
They include five-year-old Vanessa, who arrived with her parents recently from Mexico. Her parents said they traveled many, many miles in hopes of giving her a better, safer life in America. Since November, at least 11,000 families like hers have been helped by the San Diego Rapid Response Network -- an organization made up of county and city leaders along with a number of non-profits and faith groups.
“We’ve spent a lot of energy trying to figure out where our next location is and how to make sure food and water and showers and all the necessary services could be transported," Michael Hopkins, CEO of the Jewish Family Service of San Diego, said.
After moving five times, those helping migrants have temporarily moved into a large county-owned building downtown.
“We’ve had tremendous leaders at the state that have provided millions of dollars in emergency funding to make this happen," County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said.
“Again over 11,000 folks have come through this process. They are legally here. That’s the important thing to keep in mind. They need assistance and if they don’t get that assistance, what’s going to happen? A good number of them would probably be added to the rows of our homeless in this region,” County Supervisor Greg Cox said.
At the shelter, operated by the Jewish Family Service of San Diego, migrants are introduced to volunteers from all over, like 14-year-old Oregon resident Eli Zatz and his family. “It was a long drive, but it’s worth it for sure,” Zatz said.
Zatz chose to spend his spring break helping families seeking asylum.
“I’ve been playing for the past two days. I’ve been on the roof playing soccer with some of the kids and they’re all really nice,” Zatz told FOX 5. “It’s amazing how happy they are for coming all this way on this journey."
After families arrive at the shelter they are given a change of clothes, nurses check them out to make sure they are well, and they are given at least three warm meals a day.
“People that are coming here are only here from anywhere from 24-48 (hours) -- probably no more than 72 hours at the very most,” Cox said.
Family services help them get to where they are headed and before they depart, they often express their gratitude by leaving notes.
As for Vanessa's family, they are looking forward to connecting with a family member in Tennessee and working towards the dream so many have.
The shelter is expected to be open until at least the end of 2019.
If you would like to donate or volunteer get in touch with the San Diego Rapid Response Network.