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San Diego’s Downtown Library Keeps Homeless Warm And Dry

Photo by Susan Murphy

People walk into the downtown San Diego Central Library as the doors open on a rainy Monday morning, Feb. 27, 2017.

San Diego’s wet winter is great for the drought, but miserable for the hundreds of homeless who have to endure the harsh conditions on the streets.

When the doors to the downtown San Diego Central Library opened on Monday morning during a heavy downpour, more than 100 people were waiting in line. Some may have lined up to check out a good book or do research on a computer, but many others, carrying overstuffed bags and wearing soaking wet shoes, appeared to be waiting for a reprieve from the storm.

“I come here every day,” said Vern Stearns, who pointed to the sidewalk where he slept the night before. Homeless for 25 years, Stearns said the library is his lifeline.

“As soon as it opens up I’m probably one of the first that get in the door,” he said.

Monica Paredes was was also in line. She had spent the night at a shelter on 16th and Imperial, but was forced out into the rain when the shelter doors closed at 5:30 a.m. She said it has been a harsh winter.

“I get wet and cold and I’ve been sick almost a year,” said Paredes, who comes to the library daily to relax and use the computers.

“I look for a job and I stay here to not get wet outside,” Paredes said.

The library is one of the only places in downtown where the homeless can go during the day to stay warm and dry. It’s also one of the few places that offers public restrooms.

Library director Misty Jones said a growing number of homeless people are coming to the library.

“We see a lot of families,” Jones said. "We see a lot of teens. We knew when we moved into this building that we needed to step up our game and really be prepared.”

Jones said one way the library is preparing is by training the entire staff on how to work with patrons who have mental health challenges and how to recognize when someone needs help.

Jones said as many as 3,500 patrons use the Central Library each day. A strict code of conduct and tight security keeps it safe and welcoming for everyone, she said.

“We pride ourselves in being always inclusive,” Jones said. “So regardless of anyone’s circumstance they’re welcome to come in here.”

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