SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - San Diego City Councilmember David Alvarez called on Mayor Kevin Faulconer Thursday to declare a state of emergency over the city's homeless crisis.
Alvarez said the need for homeless shelters has grown as the number of suitable shelters has decreased. A lack of shelters coupled with the city's current Hepatitis A outbreak - which has killed 15 and hospitalized 264 - has led to unsafe conditions.
Seventy percent of those hospitalized are homeless, according to Alvarez.
"I am extremely concerned that our homeless population has continued to grow and the city still isn't providing sufficient shelter beds," Alvarez's memo to Mayor Faulconer read. "By living outside, individuals are getting exposed to dangerous conditions that are placing them at high risk."
The number of unsheltered homeless individuals in San Diego increased to about 5,621 in 2017 from about 4,940 in 2016, according to the 2017 Regional Task Force on the Homeless Point-in-Time Count. The number of shelters over the last year has dropped from 3,752 to 3,495.
As part of Alvarez's proposal, he urged the Mayor to utilize the former Downtown Central Library or Golden Hall as temporary homeless shelters. Alvarez also suggested finding similar venues that can accommodate temporary beds, washing stations, and bathroom facilities.
"People are dying. We must do everything we can to protect the public," Alvarez wrote. "This crisis has gone on for too long."
Councilman Alvarez also shared his proposal on Twitter.
I've called on the Mayor to declare a State of Emergency for a public health & safety crisis due to many in City who cannot obtain shelter pic.twitter.com/guN8Jgr616
— David Alvarez (@AlvarezSD) August 31, 2017
An hour after his tweet with images of the news release, he retweeted himself and said the following:
"BTW, this doesn't mean the county is off the hook on this. They are the biggest problem, but in absence of them giving a shit, we should."
The councilman is not backing down from a strongly worded tweet about the County.
“I don’t think we’re doing enough. People are dying on the streets,” Alvarez said. “Fifteen people dying as a result of Hepatitis, because we don’t have appropriate facilities for the homeless. I think that’s the definition of a crisis if there ever was one.”
The councilman says he doesn’t normally use profanity, but in this case, he felt it was appropriate.
“It reflects how I feel,” he said. “It’s been seven years that I’ve witnessed the county doing nothing when it comes to homelessness, or at least nothing significant.”
10News reached out to the county for comment. They have yet to respond. The mayor’s office gave the following statement:
“Mayor Faulconer declared a state of emergency on homelessness last year that was approved by the City Council, including Councilmember Alvarez. The City Charter explicitly states in section 295(e) that the City Council must approve emergency measures with at least six votes. We received Councilmember Alvarez’s memo earlier today and while we appreciate his concerns, we are already taking steps to address our city’s homelessness crisis to protect the most vulnerable people in our city.”