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Board Of Supervisors Voting Tuesday To Lease County Building For Temporary Migrant Shelter

The San Diego County Supervisors pose for a photo after the swearing in new s...

Photo by Matt Hoffman

Above: The San Diego County Supervisors pose for a photo after the swearing in new supervisors Jim Desmond and Nathan Fletcher, Jan. 7,2019.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors on Jan. 8 voted 3-2 to look into using county property to temporarily house migrants seeking asylum.

Supervisors Dianne Jacob and Kristin Gaspar voted against the move with supervisors Nathan Fletcher, Jim Desmond and Greg Cox voting in favor.

At the meeting Jacob and Gaspar both said this was not the county’s issue to deal with.

"This is a federal and state responsibility," Jacob said. "The feds and the state need to come up with federal and state property — we have a better purpose for our county property that we have already identified."

"It is the responsibility of our state to provide these shelters and they are neglecting to do so," Gaspar said.

Supervisors Fletcher and Cox are proposing Tuesday to use an old courthouse scheduled for demolition that would be temporarily leased to a nonprofit to house the migrants.

"Yes, the federal government should deal with this," Fletcher said. "But their failure to deal with this immigration issue does not relieve us of our obligation to confront the very real challenges to public health, to public safety and compounding the homeless crisis."

Fletcher and Cox are proposing leasing the space to Jewish Family Service for a dollar. The nonprofit would cover all operation and maintenance costs to run the shelter.

"The building is empty — so right now it’s an opportunity," said ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties Executive Director Norma Chavez-Peterson. "If they don’t do something that’s super simple to literally make an empty, abandoned building that is going to be demolished available for a nonprofit human services organization ... I hope that every San Diegan that pays attention and makes a call to their county board of supervisors and holds them accountable."

The local ACLU is a partner in the San Diego Rapid Response Network, which is helping to house migrants who are seeking asylum.

RELATED: San Diego Rapid Response Network Offers To House People Seeking Asylum, Help With Legal Fees

In a statement to KPBS Monday, Cox said the proposal is "a practical, temporary solution to a complex, ongoing problem that we didn’t create. It will allow the conversion of a vacant building that is going unused into a temporary shelter for asylum-seeking families being released into our community. I am hopeful that my colleagues will join me in supporting this temporary solution that will come at no cost to the county."

Supervisor Jim Desmond voted in favor of looking into county properties for a temporary shelter on Jan. 8. He also echoed comments from Jacob about prioritizing helping people who are homeless.

"I do also think that we should be taking care of our own homeless folks first," Desmond said. "We still have over 8,500 homeless people in the county of San Diego, a lot of them with behavioral health issues. They can’t get jobs, they cant get housing, and I think a lot of them are in worse predicaments than some of these asylum seekers."

District Attorney Summer Stephan also weighed in on the temporary shelter vote. In a letter of support, she said that the shelter would "help protect the most vulnerable of our community from becoming crime victims, and shelter our communities from numerous public health and safety issues."

Jewish Family Service is currently operating a temporary shelter that will need to move in February. The nonprofit is also a member of the San Diego Rapid Response Network.

The shelter vote is scheduled for Tuesday morning. The proposed location sits in Fletcher's district.

The board will consider a proposal to lease a county building for $1 to a nonprofit that would cover all operation and maintenance costs to run the shelter.

Update on Supervisors Vote

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Photo of Matt Hoffman

Matt Hoffman
Health Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI am a general assignment reporter for KPBS. In addition to covering the latest news and issues that are relevant to the San Diego community, I like to dig deeper to find the voices and perspectives that other media often miss.

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