Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

Quality of Life

San Diego reopens homeless shelter in downtown's old Central Library

The City of San Diego seal is shown at City Hall. San Diego, Calif. Jan. 24, 2023.
Alexander Nguyen
The City of San Diego seal is shown at City Hall. San Diego, Calif. Jan. 24, 2023.

San Diego has reopened a 34-bed overnight homeless shelter exclusively for women in the old Central Library, officials announced Wednesday.

The shelter was opened last January but shuttered in July 2023 due to permitting restrictions. A temporary permit the city has to operate the library as a shelter is limited to 180 days within a 12-month time frame, a city statement read.

"These additional beds reflect my firm commitment to use every city resource possible to get people off the street and into care," said Mayor Todd Gloria, who proposed the site in his State of the City Address in 2023. "We will continue to use the old Central Library to shelter people experiencing homelessness until we are ready to redevelop this site into additional shelter space and affordable housing."


The National Alliance on Mental Illness San Diego will operate the shelter and provide case management, access to social services and housing navigation services.

According to the city, during the six months of shelter operations in 2023, the library served 152 people with 25 of them exiting to permanent or long-term housing. Future discussions for the city-owned property include the potential for transforming it into a long-term shelter with affordable housing.

Multiple break-ins and vandalism have complicated efforts to open the shelter. Additional steps have been taken to secure the building, according to city officials.

"We need to continue the progress we're making in helping people get off the streets and into safer and healthier places," said Councilmember Stephen Whitburn, who represents downtown. "The reopening of the shelter at the old Central Library will offer an additional short-term opportunity for unhoused women.

"In the long-term, I look forward to this site being redeveloped into a mix of shelter and affordable housing where many more people will receive the assistance they need to get back on their feet," Whitburn said.


The city recently worked with NAMI San Diego and Healthcare in Action to address homeless encampments in the area surrounding the old Central Library, from Broadway to F Street, and Seventh to 10th avenues in East Village. According to city data, a $2.45 million Encampment Resolution Grant from the state helped 19 people sleeping near the library transition to permanent housing; another 71 people were placed into shelter.

"Right now, this is the best use of the old Central Library in downtown," said Sarah Jarman, director of the city's Homelessness Strategies and Solutions Department. "Our Comprehensive Shelter Strategy provides a number of non-traditional options to shelter more San Diegans in need. All options are on the table for discussion, from warehouses to unused facilities and parking lots."