OCEANSIDE — Homelessness is a growing regional problem to which a final solution has not been found.
A forum will be held to discuss current efforts, impacts of homelessness, and take audience questions Feb. 13.
The Community Forum on Homelessness discussion panel includes Greg Anglea, Alliance for Regional Solution president and Interfaith Community Services executive director; Lonny Harper, Oceanside Police Homeless Outreach Team officer; Margery Pierce Oceanside Neighborhood Services director; and Leslee Gaul, Visit Oceanside Conference and Visitors Bureau CEO and president.
Panel members’ expertise range from providing services to homeless, to addressing the impacts of a homeless population on neighborhoods and city businesses. Alison St John, KPBS North County Bureau chief, will moderate the forum.
“We are trying to achieve a broad understanding of the complexity of the issue,” Diane Nygaard, Oceanside Charitable Foundation volunteer, said.
Legislators are not represented on the panel, but may be in attendance.
The majority of the 90-minute forum will be open to audience questions, which the panel will discuss.
“The goal is to raise public awareness on what is the problem is, and what is being done,” St John said.
The night will be informative, and eye opening for those who think homelessness is a problem restricted to individuals who abuse drugs or have mental illnesses.
“It is much more diverse than that,” Nygaard said. “And that diversity is why a one size fits all approach has not worked.”
The North County Winter Shelters 2015-16 report by Alliance for Regional Solutions, found inability to pay rent and family issues as the top reasons for homelessness. The list also included reasons such as unemployment or low-income work.
Data also shows the problem is rapidly growing.
Last year’s Regional Task Force on the Homeless annual Point in Time Count identified 2,035 homeless in North County. The count showed 876 homeless, or 10.1 percent, are in the North County coastal region, with 667, or 7.7 percent, in Oceanside. Furthermore, over half of Oceanside homeless are unsheltered.
Anglea recommends immediate housing and “right-sized services” as solutions to end homelessness.
How to provide needed housing and services still needs to be determined.
The Oceanside Charitable Foundation is hosting the upcoming forum in an effort to increase understanding and fuel efforts to end city homelessness.
“We have learned that raising community awareness can lead to positive results,” Nygaard said.
Nygaard said her hope is those who attend the forum will walk away with a better understanding of the problem, knowledge of what they can do, and increased support for needed actions and funding that will make a real difference.
The forum will take place 6 p.m. Feb. 13 at the Civic Center Library Community Room, 330 N. Coast Highway.