San Diego Convention Center to shelter children seeking asylum

The San Diego Convention Center
(Eduardo Contreras / San Diego Union-Tribune)

The San Diego Convention Center will become a temporary shelter for a number of unaccompanied children seeking asylum, authorities said Monday.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chairman Nathan Fletcher said they responded to a request by federal Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, who was seeking temporary housing for children arriving at the border without parents.

“The city and county will support this federally funded effort by providing vital services to these vulnerable children who came to our country seeking safety,” they said in a statement. “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.”

Officials did not provide information on the number of children, where they are coming from or where they are likely to go.


They said the site will be used for about three months. Each child is expected to have an average stay of 30 to 35 days. They will receive food, medical care, sleeping space and showers.

Authorities will create a secure recreation area outside the facility, but the children won’t be permitted to leave the convention center until they are reunited with family or guardians.

Some of the children became separated from their families during their journey, some are orphans and others were sent by parents who hoped they could flee dangerous conditions in their home countries, Gloria and Fletcher said. Authorities did not have information on how many children may be housed there as they await asylum proceedings.

“Every child in our care deserves a safe place to rest and to know their well-being is addressed,” Becerra said in a statement. “The county and city of San Diego has generously offered to partner with the department as we abide by the law to provide unaccompanied children with food, sanitation and shelter. Our task is to protect the health and safety of unaccompanied children, who are under the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, while they go through their immigration proceedings.”

The plan to shelter unaccompanied children comes as local agencies are ending Operation Shelter to Home, which provided temporary lodgings at the San Diego Convention Center for homeless people during COVID-19.

Over the last year, that effort has sheltered more than 4,000 people and helped nearly 1,300 individuals and 43 families find long-term housing, officials said. All remaining residents will be offered beds in the city’s shelter system as Operation Shelter to Home winds down this week.


Brennan writes for the San Diego Union- Tribune.