August 7, 2023
Mayors throughout San Diego County signed a declaration pledging to work together to address homelessness.
The San Diego Rescue Mission hosted the second annual symposium Monday to share ideas and initiatives on homelessness.
The latest development in addressing homelessness in the region is San Diego’s encampment ban but that wasn’t the topic of conversation, rather it was about agreeing to work together to get the estimated 10,000 people in the county who are experiencing homelessness off the streets.
“I’ve been critical of other cities for not doing their fair share when it comes to stepping up on our homelessness crisis. And what today resulted in was 12 mayors showing up and understanding this is the number one issue in our county,” said San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria.
Gloria said that for years the city of San Diego has carried much of the weight in addressing homelessness and providing shelter beds.
Over the next year, Gloria says he’s looking forward to District Attorney Summer Stephan’s app which will be a database for tracking the needs of homeless individuals, providing resources and a dashboard that shows what shelter beds are available.
“We have to be regional on this approach. And I think there’s a way that we can work collectively as cities to try and help expedite those processes. Make sure that when there’s a bed available, and there’s someone who wants it, that we match them quickly so that we end their homelessness and then move on to the next individual,” said Gloria.
The ‘housing first’ initiative is the approach by many of the city mayors in San Diego County, including the newly elected Chula Vista Mayor, John McCann.
“We’re purchasing a hotel, we found a very good opportunity to do a safe parking because it has a large parking lot, but then also do permanent supportive housing,” said McCann.
Not all mayors support the ‘housing first’ approach.
El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells says the focus needs to be on mental health.
“You’re never going to solve this problem unless you address the real root problem, which is mental health and drug addiction issues. And so I’ve really focused on that,” said Wells.
The San Diego Rescue Mission which hosted the second annual closed-door symposium believes that having these conversations is critical. “Homelessness knows no zip code,” said Donnie Dee, San Diego Rescue Mission President, and CEO.
The task force, made up of several mayors from the region was created with the goal to keep the conversation going on how to regionally address homelessness.
“We’re going to facilitate conversations around what would it look like to do outreach regionally., what would it look like to shelter regionally, what would it look like to pool resources so that we can offer facilities regionally,” said Dee.
Leaders say these are conversations that need to be had to hold each other accountable.
“My hope is that between this meeting this year, and next year, what we can point to is tangible progress,” said Gloria.
A spokesperson for DA Stephan says the shelter bed app is still being developed and they hope to start testing it by the end of 2023.