Mayors or deputy mayors from 12 cities in San Diego County gathered for a 90-minute, closed-door symposium at the San Diego Rescue Mission on Monday (SDRM) to discuss a regional approach to the county’s homeless crisis.
The gathering was hosted by SDRM and the philanthropic group Lucky Duck Foundation.
“We are not going to solve homelessness today, but maybe we can start a conversation that will lead to us changing the state of homelessness somewhere down the road,” said Donnie Dee, President and CEO of the SDRM.
Dee said he called National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis in an effort to convene the mayors. The gathering is an effort to identify, brainstorm, and explore strategic ways for the public and private sectors to develop a regional approach to addressing homelessness countywide.
“If you live in SD, you know we have a homeless problem. And it’s not just a problem, it’s a humanitarian crisis. And we have got to do some things differently. We can’t keep doing what we’ve been doing,” said Dee.
“The value is the consensus, that it’s the number one issue, that our constituents all want to see change on this,” said San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria.
The number of homeless has increased 20% in the east county, 16% in the North County and 6% in the South County, according to the February homeless point in time count conducted by the San Diego Regional Task Force on Homelessness.
In National City, the homeless population has increased 31% since 2020, according to the point in time count.
At the meeting, Sotelo-Solis spoke of her city’s partnership with the SDRM, which will soon open a 162-bed shelter in National City.
“This is what can happen in your region. It’s about starting small, showing a model, how it works, how it can be replicated and how it can be successful in other areas,” said Sotelo-Solis.
Some of the other success stories that were shared were not as grand, but just as compelling. Earlier this year, a pilot program was launched in San Diego that offers homeless people $2 per bag of trash that is gathered.
“I thought, 'Wow, how much do we spend picking up stuff throughout our city that’s been brought to us by the homeless?' Here’s a way, perhaps, that we can go back and get them to help with part of the solution. Something that simple,” said Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall.
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria spoke of the impact a regional effort could have on securing county, state and federal funds.
“A regional effort can also mean that we’re more effective. There’s not enough money to fund every city in the state, but if we can go as a region to Sacramento and say that we are supporting Vista’s proposal for a new family affordable housing complex, then I suspect they’ll be more successful in their effort,” said Gloria.
Dee plans on holding another similar symposium in January with city managers in the region.