Plenty of ideas have been floated for the old downtown Central Library, which has sat empty since the new one opened in 2013.

Police wanted to turn it into an evidence storage center. Entrepreneurs wanted to make it a startup hub. And advocates have long pushed for a homeless shelter.

Last year, it looked like the city was getting closer to bringing one of those ideas to fruition. They put out an official request and urged those who responded to submit proposals to redevelop the old library into a hub or incubator for tech startups.

Three groups responded with proposals, but Mayor Kevin Faulconer looked at the pitches and didn’t like what he saw. He decided to halt the request process, and now people are again pushing the city to consider using the library to house the city’s growing homeless population.

NBC 7’s Monica Dean and Voice of San Diego’s Lisa Halverstadt outline the idea to use the old Central Library as a temporary shelter for the homeless.

    This article relates to: News, San Diego Explained

    Written by Kinsee Morlan

    Kinsee Morlan is the Engagement Editor at Voice of San Diego and author of the Culture Report. She works to expand our reach and helps community members write op-eds. She also manages VOSD’s podcasts and covers the arts, culture, land use and entrepreneurs. Contact her directly at Follow her on Facebook or Twitter. Subscribe to her podcast.

    Molly Cook
    Molly Cook

    Years ago when I started an organizational consulting business in another city, two local, very successful businessmen took me under their wings and mentored me for my first year or so.  I learned a lot from those men about what it means to run a successful business and also what it means to be part of my community. 

    When I thanked one of them - owner of a big lumber company - and said I didn't know how to repay him, he said, "That's not how it works.  You pay it forward when somebody else needs help or expertise."  It was the first time I'd heard those words - "pay it forward" but I haven't forgotten.  And I did pay it forward on a number of occasions.

    The other fellow who served on a number of boards and was an exec in one of the largest truck manufacturing operations in the country gave me the other piece of advice.  "Good ideas," he said, "are a dime a dozen.  Everybody has them.  But the only valuable people are the ones who follow through on those good ideas."

    As I read, day after day and week after week, about the San Diego doldrums on the homeless questions, I keep thinking about those two men and how they might have taken charge of this situation.  They would have had little patience with the apparent, "Hey, kids, let's give a show!" bursts of "why don't we try this?" and three days later, "Let's try something else."  "Let's form another committee!"  "Let's hire a Homelessness Czar!"  "Let's ask for proposals!"  It makes no sense and these are all "dime a dozen" ideas.  Nobody's following through on anything.

    They would also have had no patience with people making millions in San Diego but unwilling to pay it forward for people here who seriously need help, as if those making millions owe nothing to their own community.  The man who gave me that lesson led his own campaign to help the three major arts groups in the city - the Art Museum, the Symphony and the Opera - by organizing his business friends and "calling in the chips" as he liked to say.  He and a handful of leading citizens who understood what it meant to be part of their community raised millions in a short time and assured the future of the arts.

    The same thing could happen - could is a big word - in San Diego to resolve the homelessness problem.  I'm just not sure San Diego has the spirit or leadership to do it. 

    In the scientific world, there's something called a "felt difficulty."  You know something's wrong, but you don't yet know exactly what it is.

    My "felt difficulty" about San Diego - a place I've grown to love - is stronger every time I read one more article about homelessness.  We don't need one more cockamamie "good idea," folks.  We need some follow through from people who give a damn about this community and have the means to do it.

    Molly Larson Cook.