The Collective funds and supports engaged, interdisciplinary, and actionable research related to homelessness and food insecurity in San Diego. Through analyzing the realities of these issues, we lay the foundation for systemic and sustainable change.

Faculty-Student Research Projects

Dr. Mary Barger & Kristine
Dr. Mary Barger (left) & Kristine Mendoza, Graduate Researcher (right) from the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science

Assessing Needed Elements of Community Support Among Homeless People

To what extent do community support and the use of community supportive elements help individuals stay housed? The factors that lead persons and families to housing instability, including homelessness, are complex and occur at multiple levels from the societal to the individual. This research project, conducted in collaboration with two local non-profit organizations, analyzes the impact of social support and the degree of social embeddedness that individuals have in their social support networks. Through surveys and interviews with local individuals, this project seeks to identify aspects of re-housing programs that are particularly helpful or to identify services or needs not currently being offered.

Tackling Homelessness and Food Insecurity through Community Assessment and Engagement

Dr. Aarti Ivanic (School of Business), Julie Mai (Graduate Researcher), and Brianna Izaguirre (Affiliated Researcher)

What are the current community assets and needs of those who are unsheltered and food insecure in Linda Vista? Across the city and county of San Diego, researchers, policy advocates, social workers, government bodies, academics and organizations have all been taking steps to better understand homelessness and to implement specific policy changes to help lower the homelessness rate in the city. Much of the focus has been on homelessness in the downtown area of San Diego; however, understanding how this crisis plays out in different locations in San Diego will allow for city-wide changes. This project builds inclusive partnerships with individuals, organizations, and businesses in Linda Vista to conduct a thorough community assessment to examine demographics, existing resources, assets, deficits, and access issues within this area. 

This first phase of research for this project is funded through a research grant from the Urgent Challenges Collective. The second phase of the project will be funded through a research grant from Tom and Karen Mulvaney.

Stigma and Homelessness in San Diego

Dr. Mike Williams (College of Arts and Sciences, Political Science/International Relations), Dr. Kate DeConinck (College of Arts and Sciences, Theology and Religious Studies), Dr. Jillian Tullis (College of Arts and Sciences, Communication Studies), Natasha Skrypek (Undergraduate Researcher), Shelby Little (Undergraduate Researcher), and Molly Feeney (Undergraduate Researcher)

What attitudes and perceptions of homeless individuals and homeless services are at play in the San Diego region? This study examines how stigma impacts the success of organizations and agencies focused on homelessness as well as how these organizations and agencies seek to combat stigma. Through interviews with local political and religious leaders as well as unsheltered persons themselves, this study examines local perceptions of and assumptions about homelessness and their implications at the institutional and individual levels. Researchers analyze how ideas are circulated, contested, and negotiated in local forms of media, theological and other framings of homelessness employed by local leaders, and the ways in which community organizations and governmental institutions are working to address the stigmatization of homeless individuals.

This first phase of research for this project is funded through a Faculty Interdisciplinary Startup (FIRSt) Grant from the USD Humanities Center. The second phase of the project will be funded through a research grant from the Lucky Duck Foundation.

Urgent Challenges Collective: Research Grants

Applications for the 2019-2020 research grant program closed on September 27, 2019. Details and application materials for our 2020-2021 grants will be announced in late summer 2020! Please email and for more information.

The Collective currently welcomes proposals for USD faculty-student research projects advancing understanding of homelessness and food insecurity in San Diego. The Collective’s Research Grant program awards up to $10,000 for the academic year to a limited number of faculty-student teams to conduct collaborative, interdisciplinary research. Research teams will present their findings on campus at the end of the academic year and will be expected to publish their results. Successful proposals will also include an actionable component, meaning that the research should not only be geared toward academic audiences but also aim to inform local discussions, policies, politics, social services, and/or more. The Collective’s leadership team encourages democratic and reciprocal collaboration with community partners to see this actionable component come to fruition.

*Applicants are strongly encouraged to meet with members of the Collective leadership team while crafting their proposals. You may also find it helpful to attend one of our information sessions in mid-September (details available on the Collective’s calendar).

  • Proposal Requirements
  • Eligibility
  • Proposal Elements
  • Ready to Apply