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San Diego's old Central Library eyed as shelter for homeless

Posted at 4:26 PM, Dec 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-08 20:55:06-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — San Diego's old central library and other under-utilized buildings could get new life as shelters for the homeless.

The library shuttered in 2013. On Wednesday, its windows were boarded up while a homeless man's possessions baked in the late-morning sun in front of its sealed doors. In the shade across the street, the owner of those belongings said he's been sleeping outside the former library for a year. He added if the building were somehow turned into a shelter, he'd be the first one in.

Meanwhile, the mayor's office says San Diego's overall shelter occupancy is above 90 percent, and its capacity for single adults is near 100 percent. That's why it is now exploring new shelters, including the old library 8th Avenue and E Street, as well as the Homeless Response Center along Imperial Avenue, which has no beds.

Using old or under-utilized buildings for shelters is something groups like the nonprofit Lucky Duck Foundation have been advocating for years.

"We have a crisis," executive director Drew Moser said. "This building is sitting vacant with the doors locked and homeless folks literally sleeping on their doorstep. Why aren't we opening it and activating it to help people onto a brighter path?"

In January 2020, the organization released a scientific poll showing 84 percent of San Diegans said vacant city-owned buildings should be used as inclement weather shelters.

But homeless advocate Michael McConnell says the big issue remaining is providing long-term housing solutions after a person gets out of a shelter, so they aren't just back on the street.

In a statement, the mayor's office says the mayor and city attorney are working to resolve the site challenges at the library and multiple other locations. Those are issues such as fire safety and plumbing.