Board Approves Building as Temporary Migrant Shelter

The County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to lease its vacant former Family Court building downtown to Jewish Family Service so it can serve as a temporary shelter for asylum-seeking migrants.

The board voted 4-1 in favor of the shelter plan, with Supervisor Jim Desmond opposed.

The migrants have been legally admitted into the United States pending the outcome of their applications for asylum. Many intend to travel to other locations to reunite with family members, but federal immigration authorities have been releasing the migrants into San Diego communities before their travel plans are in place.

A network of nonprofit organizations called the San Diego Rapid Response Network stepped in to assist migrants in this transitional phase. Jewish Family Service of San Diego took the lead in operating a shelter, providing migrants a place to stay, food, medical care, legal services and help with travel arrangements. The average stay for families is 24 to 48 hours.

Jewish Family Service must leave its current shelter location by Feb. 15. Tuesday’s action will allow Jewish Family Service to lease the vacant Family Court downtown for one dollar until Dec. 31, 2019.

Jewish Family Service will reimburse the County for costs to open and maintain the premises, and will also pay costs to operate the shelter.

In November, the County provided vaccines to migrants at the Tijuana shelter. Staff also began monitoring the San Diego migrant shelter for potential public health concerns. Nursing and medical staff worked with contracted partners to begin health screenings last month and those assessments will continue when Jewish Family Service moves to the new location. The County is also monitoring food safety.

The Family Court property is owned by the County and has been vacant since the new courthouse was built downtown. Once the migrant shelter lease expires, the buildings will be demolished to make way for affordable housing.

Tracy DeFore is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact