With keynote addresses by Iain De Jong and Dr. Margot Kushel, panels featuring national, state, and local leaders, San Diegans with lived experience, RTFH and CoC board members, elected officials, and frontline staff members. RTFH was honored to put together a rich conference that increased collaboration and knowledge sharing and left many participants feeling energized and reconnected to the work and each other. Here’s some feedback from attendees after we wrapped up our two-day event.
“My team came back from the conference brimming with excitement and ideas. I know it’s a gargantuan task putting on an event of that size, so I wanted to express our sincere thanks for all the work your team put into the event. It was enriching, encouraging, and inspiring.”
“Just wanted to dash off a quick note and say INCREDIBLE WORK on the conference. So many panels chocked full of great experts and rooms chocked full of San Diego providers excited to lean in, learn, and share their expertise from the ground level. Y’all absolutely rock and San Diego is lucky to have you.”
“Thank you all at RTFH for an excellent conference and a fantastic venue this year. I absolutely left inspired and connected to a wonderful network of inspirational people!”
Keep reading to recap the events that made the second conference one to remember.
Powerful Lineup of Speakers
RTFH was proud to assemble an all-star cast of national experts, policy leaders, frontline service providers, and elected officials. Here are a few of the folks who headlined our event:
- Ann Oliva: CEO, National Alliance to End Homelessness
- Jeff Olivet: Executive Director, US Interagency Council on Homelessness
- Donald Whitehead: Executive Director, National Coalition for the Homeless
- Helene Schneider: United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH)
- Keith Harris: VA Homeless Program, National Director and Senior Ex. Homeless Agent LA
- Darlene Mathews & Michele S Williams: Principles of Equity in Action, Nationally Recognized Racial Equity Experts
- Iain De Jong: President & CEO, OrgCode Consulting, Inc.
- Margot Kushel: Professor of Medicine at UCSF and Director of the UCSF Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative, University of California San Francisco
- Ed Boyte: The Listening Group Founder and National Expert on Diversion
Notably, 40% of our 88 local speakers or presenters are individuals with lived experience, ensuring we centered their voices throughout our two-day event.
Day 2 of our conference started with an in-depth discussion with state leaders led by U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness Senior Regional Coordinator Helene Schneider. This panel featured some of the brightest minds on homelessness, discussing root causes, hopeful outcomes, and thinking outside the box. Additional panelists included:
- Alex Visotzky: National Alliance to End Homelessness, Senior California Policy Fellow
- Jevon Wilkes: California Coalition for Youth, Executive Director
- Dhakshike Wickrema: California Business, Consumer Services, and Housing Agency, Deputy Secretary, Homelessness
- Sharon Rapport: Corporation for Supportive Housing, Director, California State Policy
- Glenn Tsang: CA Department of Health Care Services, Policy Advisor for Homelessness and Housing
Like last year, several local elected officials joined us for our conference in 2023. Whether they took part in our opening ceremony, moderated a panel, or introduced a keynote speaker. Each office holder who joined our conference made it more impactful, and those elected officials included:
- California Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins
- Assemblymember Chris Ward, Assembly District 78
- Assemblymember David Alvarez, Assembly District 80
- Vice Chair Nora Vargas, San Diego County Board of Supervisors District 1
- San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria
- Council President Sean Elo-Rivera, San Diego City Council District 9
- Council President Pro Tem Joe LaCava, San Diego City Council District 1
- Councilmember Marni von Wilpert, San Diego City Council District 5
- Councilmember Kent Lee, San Diego City Council District 6
We were also honored to have Congressmember Scott Peters send a video message, updating conference attendees about the important work he’s doing in trying to change HUD’s funding formula to ensure San Diego gets its fair share of federal dollars. You can see his remarks here.
We thank all of our elected officials for their time and insight during our two-day event!
With sessions built around RTFH’s Regional Community Action Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness in San Diego, known as the CoC Regional Plan, the conference tracks focused on our region’s most vulnerable populations: veterans, older adults, transitional aged youth, unsheltered San Diegans, families, black San Diegans, as well as a macro-level system change series. Thanks to local policy experts, frontline workers, San Diegans with lived experience, national leaders, elected officials, and RTFH staff, these focused conversations were critical to our conference’s success. To see the PowerPoints from every breakout session, click here.
Musical Acts and Award Winners
The 2023 Conference on Homelessness wasn’t only about learning and collaborating. The final sessions each day were designed to celebrate the frontline workers who make the lives of San Diegans experiencing homelessness better. It was also about highlighting the triumphs of those who have experienced homelessness, like the Voices of our City Choir. They performed in front of 20 million people three years ago on the program “America’s Got Talent” and received the Golden Buzzer for their performance with the original song “Sounds of the Sidewalk,” which they sang at our conference. They also debuted a new song, “Falling Upward, ” and closed out the performance with “This Christmas Day.” This choir gives voice to the voiceless, and sharing their voices filled us with gratitude. To see this inspirational performance, click here.
The closing ceremony on day two focused our attention and gratitude on those doing the work through a special awards ceremony that became the highlight of the two-day event for many attendees.
This year, we recognized a leader like no other. The “Lifetime Achievement Award” was presented to California Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins for her years of commitment to reducing and ending homelessness, first in the city of San Diego and then across California. Helping honor Toni and opening the award ceremony was County Board of Supervisor Chair Nora Vargas. It is an inspirational and empowering beginning to an award ceremony filled with emotion and humility, leaving us with deep gratitude and hope.
From there it was time to recognize those on the ground doing the work with the six remaining awards. With 80 individuals nominated by their peers, selecting a winner for each of the six categories was one of the most difficult parts of putting together the conference, but we were honored to recognize the tremendous work that’s done every day by San Diegans across the region. These six individuals are emblematic of the oftentimes unrecognized, but undeniably impactful work of frontline staff, service providers, and lived experience advocates. As a region, we would not be where we are without what each of them – along with the hundreds of others – do every day.
Sponsors and Board Members
Our sponsors were critical to making the 2023 RTFH Conference on Homelessness possible. We were overwhelmed by the support from organizations across San Diego, with 30 organizations stepping up to provide crucial dollars that made a noticeable difference. From the generosity of our title sponsor, Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plan, to our champion class of sponsors, we sincerely appreciate the number of organizations willing to provide these funds. With our dedication to keeping a ticket price point that’s attainable by so many in our region, the only way to put on the kind of conference our region deserves is with the generous financial support of our sponsors. We cannot express our profound gratitude enough for their support.
Additionally, the support of the RTFH and CoC board members was a key component of our success. Your support, constructive feedback, and understanding of the importance of the conference focused on the regional plan were vital to what happened on December 5th and 6th.
We at RTFH want to thank everyone who made this conference a success. The speakers, the participants, the sponsors, our boards and staff, and all who attended – none of this would have been possible to pull off without all of you. We were humbled to host nearly a thousand attendees and an outstanding and inspirational lineup of speakers for this two-day sold-out conference. We heard so many people who attended leave feeling deeply connected, encouraged, energized, refreshed, renewed, and inspired to do the vital work this community depends on. Together, we are making a difference, always working to make homelessness a rare and brief occurrence. We look forward to seeing you in 2024!