At the time that SBCS was tapped by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to lead social services to migrant children at the San Diego Convention Center, there were more than 5,000 children in Border Patrol custody. Through the leadership of our CEO Kathie Lembo, we moved swiftly to accommodate the 1,450 incoming youth during the opening of the shelter. From food to health services to clothing, our partner agencies dove in to help accomplish the task.
San Diegans and businesses from every neighborhood and many local leaders stepped up to help, offering donations and volunteer time. We are deeply grateful for the support we received from so much of our community. We could not have created a shelter from the ground up in just days without the massive support this project received.
It was an honor to exclusively share our behind-the-scenes work with Kate Morrissey at the San Diego Union-Tribune. Read the full story here. A few highlights from her feature include:
During such a difficult time for the children, their deep trauma often rose to the surface as they found refuge at the shelter. We could all see and feel the emotions that came with these children as a result of leaving their countries and being in a totally foreign place.
“The first trauma is they have to leave their home. And their journey for most of them was very traumatic, and then their time in Border Patrol custody was traumatic,” Lembo said. “That was something you had to realize right away.”
With emotions running high, our agency staff and volunteers did everything in their power to ensure that these children felt comfortable and safe.
“Leslie Lopez Moreno of MAAC recalled multiple girls having panic attacks overnight in the pod she was assigned to during her first shift.
When one Honduran teen told her how much she missed goodnight kisses and being tucked into bed back home, Lopez Moreno began individually tucking in each child in her 50-bed pod each night, while being careful to observe the project’s rules about not touching the children.” – Kate Morrissey, SDUT
An example for the nation
Speaking of partners and volunteers, we would again like to highlight and thank our partners for their outstanding alliance during our time together at the migrant shelter. Working side by side, we gave these children the safe, nurturing environment they deserved. In fact, our shelter achieved a reputation as the best of its kind in the nation and served as a blueprint for how to do this work.
Feedback from the children themselves, given through an exit survey, shows an overall positive experience in our care.