Shelter beds in old library
Shelter beds in the old central library. Photo courtesy of Todd Gloria’s office

Mayor Todd Gloria Thursday announced the opening of a new homeless shelter at the old Central Library. The 36-bed shelter will operate at night and exclusively serve women, particularly those who reside in and around Downtown. 

“The first night this shelter was open, each of the new residents was asleep by 6 p.m., exhausted from life outdoors and feeling safe and secure in a warm and comfortable bed,” Mayor Gloria said.”We owe it to them and many others like them to explore every opportunity to locate new shelters and new housing — and that’s precisely what we’ve done here The challenging effort to open this shelter at the Old Central Library finally is indicative of that no-stone-unturned mentality to address homelessness in our city.” 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness of San Diego and Imperial Counties is operating the shelter under contract with the city’s Homeless Strategies and Solutions Department. NAMI will also provide case management, access to social services, and housing navigation services. 

“The opening of this shelter is another concrete step addressing street homelessness Downtown,” said City Councilmember Stephen Whitburn, who represents District 3, where the facility is located. “This shelter will help women exit encampments and enter a safer place. I’m happy to see an old building create new beginnings that will help these women get back on their feet.” 

In his 2022 State of the City address, Mayor Gloria expressed his desire to transform the Old Central Library into a shelter. But first, the city had to clear a deed restriction that limited how the property may be used. After months of work by the City Attorney, a judge determined in December 2022 that the deed restriction does not preclude the city from using the building as a shelter. 

In addition, a series of challenges with the site, including multiple break-ins and vandalism, complicated efforts to open the shelter. Additional steps have been taken to secure the building. 

Funding for the project included a $322,000 Capital Emergency Solutions Grant from the County of San Diego awarded to the city’s Homelessness Strategies and Solutions Department. The shelter will be in operation for six months, after which the city will explore the possibility of creating affordable housing on the city-owned property. 

The library site is located in a section of East Village that will soon benefit from a $2.45 million Encampment Resolution Grant awarded by the State of California last October to help the city resolve encampments and transition individuals into safe and stable housing. 

Thursday’s announcement comes on the heels of several successes in the Mayor’s comprehensive approach to homelessness, including the opening of the 150-bed Rosecrans Shelter, the 33-room Seniors Landing bridge shelter, and the 11-room, 22-bed Safe Haven for unsheltered residents who struggle with substance abuse. 

The city now has a total of 1,793 beds in its shelter network. Since April 2021, Mayor Gloria has made nearly 700 additional beds available. 

Combined with its Coordinated Street Outreach and Safe Parking programs, the city’s shelter network connected more than 2,200 people to housing or treatment facilities last year, with nearly 1,900 of them moving into permanent housing.