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San Diego Councilman Calls For Homeless State Of Emergency; Mayor Calls On County To Respond

Encampments constructed by homeless people stretch down 17th Street in San Di...

Photo by Susan Murphy

Above: Encampments constructed by homeless people stretch down 17th Street in San Diego's East Village, July 6, 2017.

Councilman Calls For City Homeless State Of Emergency; Mayor Calls On County To Respond


David Alvarez, councilman, City of San Diego


An adviser to San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said Councilman David Alvarez's call Thursday for a declaration of a state of emergency in the city due to a shortage of homeless shelters and an associated health crisis caused by an outbreak of Hepatisis A in that population is not needed.

RELATED: Number Of Hepatitis A Cases In San Diego County Continue To Rise

"Mayor Faulconer declared a state of emergency on homelessness last year that was approved by the City Council, including Councilmember Alvarez," Jonathan Herrera, Faulconer's senior adviser on homelessness coordination, told KPBS.

"The City Charter explicitly states in section 295(e) that the City Council must approve emergency measures with at least six votes. We received Councilmember Alvarez's memo earlier today and while we appreciate his concerns, we are already taking steps to address our city's homelessness crisis to protect the most vulnerable people in our city.”"

The mayor also declared a shelter crisis in the city in 2015.

The 2016 and 2015 resolutions both referred to a "shelter crisis," but cited the same section of California Code that Alvarez referred to in his letter about a state of emergency.

"I would disagree with the assertion that the declaration that the councilmember is requesting is in anyway different from the one that is already in place," Herrera said.

Alvarez's proposal included suggesting 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 Alvarez, whose district includes Barrio Logan and south San Diego neighborhoods. "This crisis has gone on for too long. I urge you to take immediate action."

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.

RELATED: Plan To House San Diego’s Homeless In Industrial Tents Gains More Support

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