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City of San Diego reopens women-exclusive shelter at old Central Library

San Diego, California – The City of San Diego has taken a significant step forward in its mission to support individuals facing homelessness by reopening a women-exclusive shelter at the city’s former Central Library. This initiative is part of a broader effort by the city to increase shelter options and provide comprehensive support services to those in need. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) San Diego is at the helm of operating the 34-bed overnight facility. They are responsible for offering case management, facilitating access to social services, and guiding individuals through housing navigation services.

A Renewed Commitment to Shelter and Support

The idea to utilize the old Central Library as a shelter space was first proposed by Mayor Todd Gloria during his 2022 State of the City Address. The facility initially opened in January of last year as a temporary solution to address the urgent need for more shelters, following Mayor Gloria’s directive to explore every possible option for such facilities. Despite a temporary closure in July due to permitting restrictions, the shelter made a comeback on Monday, Jan. 22, 2024, under a temporary permit allowing its operation for 180 days within a 12-month period.

Mayor Gloria expressed his determination, stating, “These additional beds reflect my firm commitment to use every City resource possible to get people off the street and into care. We will continue to use the Old Central Library to shelter people experiencing homelessness until we are ready to redevelop this site into additional shelter space and affordable housing.”

In 2023, during its six months of operation, the library shelter provided refuge to 152 individuals, with 25 of them moving on to permanent or long-term housing. The city is now considering transforming the property into a long-term shelter and affordable housing complex.

Councilmember Stephen Whitburn, representing the district that includes Downtown, highlighted the importance of continuing efforts to help people transition from the streets to safer environments. He praised the shelter’s reopening, viewing it as a crucial short-term solution for unhoused women and envisioning the site’s future redevelopment into a combination of shelter and affordable housing.

The city’s collaboration with NAMI San Diego and Healthcare in Action has been instrumental in addressing homeless encampments in the vicinity of the old Central Library. Supported by a $2.45 million Encampment Resolution Grant from the State of California, this partnership has successfully facilitated the transition of 19 individuals to permanent housing, with an additional 71 placed in shelters.

Sarah Jarman, Director of the city’s Homelessness Strategies and Solutions Department, emphasized the innovative approach to sheltering San Diegans in need. The Comprehensive Shelter Strategy includes a variety of non-traditional options, ranging from warehouses to unused facilities and parking lots, indicating a willingness to explore all possibilities to provide shelter and support.

The old Central Library shelter’s operation is limited to overnight sleeping, reflecting a focused effort to offer immediate relief while working towards more permanent solutions.

Ted Torres

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