San Diego City Councilman David Alvarez. Photo by Chris Stone

Councilman David Alvarez called Thursday on Mayor Kevin Faulconer to declare a state of emergency in the city of San Diego due to a shortage of homeless shelters and an associated health crisis.

As part of his proposal, Alvarez suggested opening the former Central Library or Golden Hall for use as a homeless shelter. The library building at Eighth Avenue and E Street has been vacant since a replacement opened in the East Village nearly four years ago.

While the number of homeless people has swelled over the past few years, those living on the streets have also had to deal with an outbreak of hepatitis A that has killed 15 and sent more than 260 to hospitals.

The illness has primarily impacted the homeless and intravenous drug users, according to health officials.

“People are dying,” Alvarez wrote in a memo to the mayor.

“We must do everything we can to protect the public,” said the councilman, who represents Barrio Logan and south San Diego neighborhoods. “This crisis has gone on for too long. I urge you to take immediate action.”

The mayor’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

In January’s annual tally of the area’s transient population, 5,619 homeless individuals were counted in the city of San Diego, a 10.3 percent increase from last year. Of those, 3,231 were living on the streets.

City and county officials have responded over the past few months with a series of proposals on how to address both homelessness and a lack of affordable housing.

Also, Padres co-owner Peter Seidler and restaurateur Dan Shea recently suggested erecting industrial-size tents to provide shelter to the homeless. Numerous civic and political leaders have signed-on to their plan.

–City News Service

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