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Revamped Courthouse Opens As Migrant Shelter In Downtown San Diego

Two women sit on their bunks combing their hair after bathing at a temporary ...

Photo by Matthew Bowler

Above: Two women sit on their bunks combing their hair after bathing at a temporary shelter for migrant families in downtown San Diego, March 27, 2019.

A former San Diego family courthouse is now the new home for migrant families seeking refuge in the United States.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted earlier this year to allow a local relief organization to transform the building into a temporary shelter for asylum-seekers who were released from custody. Jewish Family Service conducted renovations and opened its doors in early March.

Supervisory Nathan Fletcher, a Democrat, said the shelter is a warm welcome to those who are fleeing their home countries.

"Think about if you had to take your children on a 1,500-mile trek evading smugglers and human traffickers and not sure where your next meal will come from or safety and then you make it to a place that shows you love and compassion," Fletcher said. "That could be any of our children and I just think when you look in the eyes of these children it really motivates you to make sure we do this right."

The five-member county board approved the $1 lease in January with only Supervisor Jim Desmond, a Republican, voting against it. But Fletcher said the shelter was a bipartisan effort.

"It’s Supervisor Greg Cox, a Republican, myself, a Democrat working together with a Republican mayor with Democrats in the Legislature who are all coming together just to do the right thing. And I think the federal government can learn a lesson or two about San Diego’s collaboration and compassion and willingness to get it done," said Fletcher, who was elected in November.

Federal immigration officials previously dropped off migrant families in downtown San Diego, and other border cities, often without accommodations or travel arrangements. The issue prompted San Diego County to sue the Trump Administration, which is now forcing asylum-seekers to stay in Mexico while they await court hearings.

Jewish Family Service is covering the shelter's operational costs. Families staying there have claimed asylum and were recently released from federal custody. They will remain at the shelter until they find a more permanent accommodation.

The migrants receive medical exams from county staff who check for communicable diseases, including lice, mumps and chickenpox. The shelter also provides the migrant families with clothes, three daily meals and space for children to play indoors and outside.

The shelter will remain open through the end of the year while a more permanent location can be identified.

VIDEO: San Diego Migrant Shelter Will Stay Open Till December

The space now houses families who are seeking asylum in the U.S. while advocates search for a permanent location.

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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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