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KPBS Midday Edition

City officials assess San Diego's old Central Library as a potential homeless shelter

San Diego's former central library sits vacant as city leaders decide how to redevelop the facility, Feb. 16, 2015.
Matthew Bowler
San Diego's former Central Library sits vacant as city leaders decide how to redevelop the facility, Feb. 16, 2015.

San Diego City officials are assessing whether the old Central Library can serve as a homeless shelter, an effort that has been in the works in the past.

The city-owned building has been vacant for almost a decade and is located in the heart of the San Diego homeless population in East Village.

KPBS Midday Edition spoke with Voice of San Diego reporter Lisa Halverstadt, who recently reported about the facility. She said many people in the community wonder why the building has been empty for years.

"So many people are seeing these camps and homeless people gathering in the area, and they're seeing this vacant building and they say, 'Why not consider a shelter there?'," Halverstadt said.

She said the process is in the works, but nothing is official yet.

"The city is in really early stages of considering whether this property that it's looked at before and several other city-owned sites could potentially have shelter," Halverstadt said. "So Mayor Todd Gloria wanted to take a look at this because (he) wants to expand the city's shelter capacity."

The city stopped pursuing the shelter idea in the past due to problems with the building.

"The latest that I heard last year from former Mayor Kevin Faulconer's administration, was that the building still has a lot of issues. Those sited included plumbing, heating and cooling system problems," she said. "Also, back in 2017 when the city was looking at shelter possibilities, a former Faulconer's spokesman had told me that the city had thought the building needed about $5 million in upgrades just to make it habitable, and advocates really thought that was overblown."

If the old Central Library turns into a homeless shelter, the number of people from the homeless population who could be housed there is still unknown.