Coming Together to Change Lives

San diego convention center

SBCS Transformed the San Diego Convention Center into a Welcoming Shelter for Migrant Children

At the time that SBCS (formerly South Bay Community Services) was tapped by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to lead social services for migrant children at the San Diego Convention Center, there were more than 5,000 children in Border Patrol custody. With the help of trusted partners, SBCS expeditiously provided critical social services in “America’s Finest City” and became a model for the rest of the nation to follow.

There is no doubt that it could not have been done without the scores of San Diego’s community, local leaders, and businesses – all of whom stepped up to help, offering donations and volunteer time. SBCS could not have created a shelter from the ground up, in just days, without their collective, massive support, nor could the nonprofit have addressed and cared for these children who were enduring incredible emotional distress.

To get started, SBCS drew upon its decades of experience. Harnessing each organization’s strengths, they developed the playbook for how this shelter should operate. But operating a shelter was not enough.

The aim was to create a safe and loving environment, one that not only fostered physical and mental health, but also provided a sense of security, hope and joy for the children. Fortunately, as organizations that work day-in and day-out to help children thrive, they each had the expertise and commitment to excellence it would take to give the children the care they deserved. In just a few short months, more than 2,400 unaccompanied minors were reunited with family here in the U.S., and an additional 800 have been placed with supportive sponsor families.

The shared experience between all the partners has painted a bright future not only for the children they cared for, but for the work the organizations will continue to do with each other. The bonds have been strengthened and their hearts have been opened wide. Together, SBCS, our partner organizations, and the many loving hands that came together in this effort share a renewed focus to help San Diego’s communities become even more resilient and better prepared for the next challenge.

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Esteban Villanueva