The temporary San Diego Convention Center migrant shelter closed on Friday after less than 4 months in operation.
The migrant shelter opened up in late March to help combat the large surge of Central American migrant children being sent across the border. While migrant children continue to be sent across the border, the reopening of California and laxer COVID-19 restrictions has necessitated the reopening of the San Diego Convention Center (SDCC) for summer events.
Through its run as a migrant shelter, more than 2,400 children who were transferred to the SDCC were reunified with their sponsors according to the Department of Health and Human Services. The last of these children left on Wednesday, with cleanup continuing through early July.
“I think every San Diegan can be proud of everything that happened in the convention center, the way all these organizations — private, public, nonprofit — all working together to protect these kids,” said San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria on Friday. “That’s what we should do, it should be a no brainer and San Diego absolutely stepped up. I believe we will continue to have opportunities to step up and serve and I believe that we will. It may not be at the convention center, it may be more modest efforts.”
The shelter employed hundreds of people, ranging from Metropolitan Area Advisory Committee workers to a large presence of healthcare workers due to the COVID-19 epidemic to San Diego public school teachers.
However, the SDCC’s role as a migrant center earlier this year proved to be controversial due to many believing that the SDCC should have been an economic vehicle with conventions and other uses to help drive the economy around the Center in San Diego, rather than another migrant center.
“When it was being used as a homeless shelter to protect people from getting COVID-19 during the winter, it made sense since nothing was open and they needed to keep the lights on. Plus, it made good PR and genuinely helped a lot of people during the case spike,” Clara, an industry event booker told the Globe Friday. “But the migrant shelter was put in at a time when COVID cases were going down and a lot of industries were looking to book events. I usually do California, but I had to put in alternate sites in Texas and Florida and Louisiana instead, as they opened earlier and could handle it. I mean, restrictions are now going away in California, but they lost out on a lot of national events.”
“And people like coming to California. Conventions in Texas are always complained about due to the heat and hundreds of other factors. Florida, same thing but with humidity. California is always reliable in terms of weather, having things to do, and being an enjoyable experience. Especially when compared to hurricane season out there. But because of California dragging its feet, and the SDCC not reopening sooner because of the migrants, they lost out to events willing to risk hurricanes. It’s going to shift back to California next year big time, but this year, when all of these businesses need a bit of help, conventions will largely not be there for it. It really could have helped. Larger conventions can be worth millions a piece in terms of economic impact.”
Conventions and other events are expected to resume at the SDCC soon. Some events traditionally held in San Diego, such as Comic-Con, have delayed in-person events until next year.