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What needs to be done to address homelessness in San Diego?

Matthew Bowler
A couple living in a tent at a homeless encampment on Sports Arena Boulevard in San Diego's Midway District is awoken by San Diego Police Officers beginning their enforcement of the City of San Diego's anti-encroachment and illegal lodging laws, Feb. 14, 2022.

The recent focus on a homeless encampment in the Midway area of San Diego illustrates some of the challenges our region faces in addressing homelessness.

And while efforts to clean up encampments have shone a light on the issue, the number of people experiencing homelessness in San Diego County has hovered above 8,000 people for some time. In 2012 the sheltered and unsheltered population here hit a high of more than 9,600. The most recent Point in Time count data from the
the Regional Task Force on the Homeless found more than 7,600 San Diego County residents were living in shelters, in cars and on the street in January 2020.

RELATED: City-led cleanup operation of homeless encampment in Midway begins


Numbers from the most recent count conducted on Feb. 24 won't be out until later this year but reporting shows street homelessness appears to be surging.

As San Diego continues to grapple with how to connect its unsheltered population with services and housing, complex questions have to be asked. What role should conservatorship laws play in helping the hardest-to-reach homeless individuals? What are the best strategies for reducing the number of people living on the street and into homes of their own? Is housing first the best approach or treatment first? How can you find permanent housing for so many people in one of the least affordable places in the country?

RELATED: San Diego Sports Arena encampment residents ticketed as cleanup continues

KPBS will be asking these questions and more as part of a community conversation exploring the topic of homelessness in San Diego later this month. Your stories and experiences could be included in the conversation.

We’d like to hear your thoughts. How does homelessness affect you personally? Do you or someone you know have experience with homelessness? What is your opinion of how well San Diego has addressed the needs of its homeless population? What do you see as the key solutions for homelessness in San Diego County? How can the San Diego specific barriers to helping people experiencing homelessness into shelter or housing be overcome?