SAN DIEGO — Sixteen out of the 18 mayors in San Diego County will meet to address the growing homelessness crisis. The meeting will take place at the San Diego Rescue Mission Monday afternoon.

Donnie Dee, president and CEO of the San Diego Rescue Mission, initiated the meeting after realizing more needs to be done between public officials, municipalities and city officials. Dee says he started making calls in February to all the mayors to get the ball rolling and to his surprise, all but two are attending. Some include National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis, Mayor Matt Hall from Carlsbad and San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria.

The purpose of Monday’s forum is to have a conversation on how the private and public sectors can work together to change the state of homelessness in San Diego. Dee is aware they’re not going to solve the problem with one meeting, but says it’s a start. He wants the mayors to know there are several things the Rescue Mission and the Lucky Duck Foundation can do to help.

The rescue mission has been around for more than 70 years helping the homeless. It started as a soup kitchen and over the last 20 years, it turned into a rehabilitation program.

When asked what he thought a good first step would be to alleviate the homeless crisis, Dee said, “I think we got to work to eliminate the redundancy. We got to spend our resources the right way. We got to do more outreach, more engagement.

“This is a relationship issue. If we can begin to build relationship and trust with people living on the streets, we can direct them to the many programs and services we have throughout this county. The problem is, they’re shunning that. They don’t want that help because many of them have had a bad experience.”

The meeting starts at 1:45 pm. It will be a closed-door session. Dee says all the mayors will leave with an invitation for the city managers to have a similar summit. He says that’s scheduled for January 23, 2023.