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Two day conference underway in San Diego with an ambitious goal of solving homelessness

For years, solving homelessness has been one of San Diego’s biggest civic challenges.

“So be a part of the conversation, 'cause you’re a part of the solution," said Tamera Kohler in her opening remarks to attendees at the start of a two-day, first-of-its-kind conference called "Solutions for San Diego."

Kohler is the CEO of the Regional Task Force on Homelessness, which is putting on the conference. She said she hopes for lots of productive conversations to take place over the two days.

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“The problem is so large that we need everyone understanding how we’re doing it, why we’re doing it, the support of electeds, the support of the programs. This brings everyone together centrally to hear the message clearly," Kohler said.

The event has drawn dozens of people from all over the country who are working to solve homelessness in their communities, to join hundreds of San Diegans working toward that same goal.

But despite major efforts from the city and county, the problem is actually getting worse. Kohler said for every 10 people who get help to get off the street, another 13 people fall into homelessness.

“If you look at the coastal cities in the United States, that’s where there is disproportionate homelessness," said Gregg Colburn, the keynote speaker for the conference.

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Colburn is the author of “Homelessness is a Housing Problem,” in which he lays out the case that a lack of housing is at the top of the list of factors that contribute to people experiencing homelessness.

“Homelessness thrives when housing isn’t available," he said.

Like in Colburn’s hometown of Seattle, housing in San Diego is expensive. But he said from what he’s seen so far, this conference has huge potential to make big strides towards solutions.

“I walked into this ballroom this morning and I was blown away when I saw how full that ballroom (was). And so I’m really impressed that the group here has pulled that many people together for this event," Colburn said.

Among the elected leaders who spoke at the conference was San Diego County Board of Supervisors Vice Chair Nora Vargas, who had some pithy advice about looking at what is and is not working. “What should we stop doing?" she said. "Let’s think about new innovative ways. Let’s figure it out."

The conference winds up on Thursday and at that point, the hundreds of locals attending it will go back to their jobs with new ideas and perhaps a new determination to finally solve San Diego’s longest term, seemingly most unsolvable problem.

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