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Homeless advocates look for solutions Allison K. Sampite | Sat, Nov 20 2010 12:00 PM

Members from a variety of local agencies attended a forum Tuesday to increase awareness and offer solutions to the homelessness issue in the South Bay.

The South Bay Homeless Advocacy Coalition is a Chula Vista collaborative that works with local agencies to identify resources and gaps in services in order to meet the needs of homeless people in Chula Vista and the South Bay.

Peter Callstrom is the executive director for the Regional Task Force on the Homeless. "The need has never been greater for coordinated services in our region," he said. He said homelessness is a crisis that is growing across the country. "It impacts the community in every way - moral and economic. A lot needs to be done to address myriad problems."

"When dealing with homeless people we have to be empathetic to their position," said Dela Pena, a Chula Vista police officer. "You have to find the line between being the tough guy and the empathetic soldier."

Kathryn Lembo is the CEO of South Bay Community Services. The organization helps build affordable homes for children, youth and families to help them realize their potential.

Lembo said homelessness impacts the community by affecting children in school, contributing to crime and negatively affecting the economy.

Statistics show there are 409 homeless people in Chula Vista, 212 who are on the street and 197 who are in shelters.

Of the homeless in Chula Vista, 212 are individuals, farm or day laborers or live in cars or tents on the street, while 197 are sheltered living in emergency shelters, transitional housing, safe havens or the Homelessness Prevention Rapid Re-Housing Program.

Lembo said many youth become homeless because they are aging out of the foster care program and that it's important to have sufficient affordable housing for very low income families. "Many people have become homeless because they lost their job or they are making a lot less," she said.

"We've got to find a way to provide some kind of interim housing to help people get back on their feet," Lembo said.

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