Lines of tents occupied the sidewalks alongside the old Central Library early Friday, Sept. 2, 2022. / Photo by Peggy Peattie for Voice of San Diego

The city expects to welcome homeless San Diegans to sleep in its old Central Library later this month.

Mayor Todd Gloria’s office said the city is preparing the long-vacant downtown library to accommodate 26 beds this winter and to get final approval from the fire marshal to shelter unhoused residents there.

The city has also secured a contract with the National Alliance on Mental Illness San Diego to operate the shelter, Gloria spokeswoman Rachel Laing wrote in an email.

For now, Laing said, the city hopes to open the shelter by mid-January.

City moves to proceed with the temporary shelter plan for a portion of the old library follow a Superior Court judge’s December ruling clearing a century-old deed restriction that snarled past redevelopment plans. (ICYMI, we broke this news and provided more history late last month.)

The former downtown library has sat empty since 2013 when the city opened a new Central Library nearby. Gloria’s office has said the Superior Court decision now frees up the city to consider the “best use for the building and land in the long-term.”

County Official: CARE Court Won’t Be Overnight Success 

Tent encampments around the old library, the Salvation Army, and along Commercial Street under the I-5 freeway. / Photo by Peggy Peattie for Voice of San Diego
Tent encampments around the old library, the Salvation Army, and along Commercial Street under the I-5 freeway. / File photo by Peggy Peattie for Voice of San Diego

San Diego County’s behavioral health director is among those statewide urging Californians not to set their expectations too high for the state’s upcoming CARE Court system.

The court system, which San Diego County expects to implement ahead of schedule this summer, aims to make it easier to compel people with serious mental illnesses to access care. The Newsom administration has estimated the CARE Court program will serve a fraction of the state’s unhoused population despite suggestions that the initiative could be a gamechanger for combating homelessness.

County behavioral health chief Luke Bergmann told the Los Angeles Times that San Diego officials have found it difficult to predict how many people will be referred into CARE Court and thus “how to scale the necessary infrastructure.”

He noted that the behavioral health system is already dealing with staffing shortages and acknowledged that a long-standing shortage of long-term care options is his foremost concern as the county prepares to implement CARE Court.

“What keeps me up at night are the larger challenges we face meeting the needs of people for many years into the future,” Bergmann told the newspaper. “Whatever success CARE Court has, it won’t look good if we don’t figure out how to increase long-term care — and that includes residential placements.”

Our Lisa Halverstadt has previously written about how the county’s long-term care shortage could be further exposed by CARE Court reforms and the county’s plans to try to deliver more options.

In Other News 

The Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt and Will Huntsberry. It was edited by Andrea Lopez-Villafaña. 

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