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Bankers Hill Building Could Become Asylum-Seeker Housing

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will vote on a proposal to utilize a vacant building in the Bankers Hill area of San Diego as a temporary shelter for asylum seekers. 

The proposal asks the board to lease the facility on Sixth Avenue to San Diego Rapid Response Network (SDRRN), a coalition of immigration activist groups, so they can continue to provide shelter, food and services to up to 200 asylum-seeking migrants a day. 

“We assessed a multitude of facilities and found a vacant building that the county is currently not using. It’s slated to be demolished at the end of the year to be turned into affordable housing,” County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher (Dist. 4), who backs the proposal, said on NBC 7’s “Politically Speaking.” 

The SDRRN has requested the county’s help because the building they are currently utilizing must be vacated by Feb. 15. Without another solution, “hundreds of migrants will be left homeless in San Diego,” the group claims.

“The fact that the temporary shelter operated by JFS is due to close February 15 means instability and even more risk for the vulnerable population who most often have no stable place to call home,” District Attorney Summer Stephan wrote in a letter of support of the proposal Monday.

She said her support comes “purely from a public safety perspective.” Stephan cited the risk of human trafficking that asylum seekers face.

If the proposal passes, SDRRN would enter a private-public partnership with the county to rent the building for $1 until Dec. 31.

Fletcher said the group would then be responsible for running and administering services at the facility and no taxpayer dollars would be used. 

SDRRN said Jewish Family Service (JFS), one of their partners and the lead operator of the shelter, has already secured funding to operate and maintain the operation. 

The migrants that would be housed at the shelter have begun the asylum-seeking process and are released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers as they await trial proceedings. 

SDRRN said once released from ICE custody, migrants typically stay in their shelter for 24 to 48 hours before moving on to more permanent housing.

Some days the organization sees up to 200 migrants released at one time. Other days, it’s as few as 20. 

Fletcher told Politically Speaking it is necessary for the county to intervene to “avert a potential crisis.” 

“If we do this we’re going to certainly face criticism. If we don’t do this and we have thousands of people who go into our homeless shelters, if we don’t do this and we have another Hepatitis A outbreak, if we don’t do this and women and children are sexually trafficked, your going to face criticism for that but you’re also going to have a negative impact on people’s lives,” he said.

The district attorney echoed these ideas in her letter Monday.

“We can drastically reduce the public safety risk to our community and those individuals and families by providing an alternate shelter site and other necessary services,” Stephan said.

The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to take up the issue in an open session that begins at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Photo Credit: Gregory Bull/AP (File)
Source: NBC San Diego

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