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Changemaker Challenge Student Ideas Support Community Partners in Addressing Homelessness

Friday, October 30, 2020

The 2020 Changemaker Challenge at the University of San Diego took a different pathway for students to get involved, to think about addressing homelessness in San Diego through the lens of two community partners and the results were revealed in a short, virtual program on Friday afternoon.

“The changes we made, we feel, really benefitted the learning experience and we were able to deepen our relationship with our community partners, PATH (People Assisting the Homeless) and Think Dignity,” said USD Changemaker Hub Director and USD Professor Mike Williams.

This annual event consists of students creating a two-to-three-minute video on a chosen theme, judges picking finalists and then the top videos are displayed for viewers to vote.

What was different this year for entrants was what to choose. PATH (People Assisting the Homeless) and Think Dignity representatives came up with categories/questions based on what they’d like to explore to support their efforts and have the solving part come from the inspired and talented minds of USD students.

Here were the categories/questions used:

Dignified Client Engagement (PATH) — How might we help PATH provide opportunities during COVID-19 for clients to engage in a way that will allow them to connect with others and that is safe and dignified? Better Known in San Diego (PATH) — How might we help PATH become better known in the San Diego region in a way that educates and empowers local community members to become active in their communities to drive change? Mobile Showers (Think Dignity) — How might we help Think Dignity reimagine its sanitation process in a way that it complies with sanitation guidelines, is safe for clients, and cost and time effective for the organization, especially during a pandemic? Feminine Hygiene Access (Think Dignity) — How might we help Think Dignity provide access to feminine hygiene products to their clients in a way that it provides privacy while helping break the stigma? Storage Solutions (Think Dignity) — How might we help Think Dignity provide access for those experiencing homelessness in areas further from downtown to store their personal items in a way that is convenient and safe so that they can have more opportunities to move freely and to take care of their daily needs?

A $5,000 prize money pool generously donated by the USD Parent Board Association was spread amongst the finalists based on the percentage of votes received online this past week. The results are as follows (click on each link below to watch the finalists' videos):

“Interactive Digital Billboards and Mobile Storage Bins,” (Storage Solutions), $1,781. Student entrants: Olivia Duncan, Lydia Zepeda, Sebastian Simpson, Bailey Gillis and Elizabeth B.

“Use of Vital Oxide to Think Dignity’s Fresh Start Shower Project (Mobile Showers),” $1,356. Student entrants: Richard Ruiz, Megan Braband, Jennifer Kovarik and William Heisinger.

“Boutique Boxes,” (Feminine Hygiene Access), $880. Student entrants: Ruby Gallegos and Maria Simpson.

“Addressing Homeless Shower Sanitation,” (Mobile Showers), $339. Student entrants: Christopher Curtis, Zoe Clark, Zia Udell and Alexia Cole.

“Community Garden,” (Dignified Client Engagement), $207. Student entrants: Lachlan Eicholzer, Olivia Welch, Maia Mena and Kenny Scroggin.

“Stramig@s,” (Dignified Client Engagement), $141. Student entrants: Daniela Abouchedid, Anne Marie Ducruet, and Eva Eleftheriadis.

“A Voice for the Homeless,” (Better Known in San Diego), $115. Student entrants: Colton Calvert and Caelin Murphy.

“Help Make Change Activist App,” (Better Known in San Diego), $100. Student entrants: Samantha Stelter, Macarena Fernandez Dias, Lauren Vega, Maya Enriquez and Sarah Carter.

“Pussy Packs,” (Feminine Hygiene Access), $61. Student entrants: Maria Velez Manriquez, Lupe Velez, Caden Callero, Daniela Bautista Vanegas.

“San Diego Storage Solutions,” (Storage Solutions), $17. Student entrants: Madeleine Brotherton and Sloan Elmassian.

The 2020 Changemaker Challenge, which attracted 200 students for the competition, received 59 entries (55 teams, four individuals). There were seven USD classes from different disciplines — communication studies, sociology, leadership, changemaker, architecture and honors program — who had faculty members incorporate participation in the challenge into their curriculum.

From the final results, PATH’s Sigrid Struben and Think Dignity’s Merlynn Watanabe, both of whom are USD alumnae and were both among the committee of video judges, plan to carry four of the finalists’ ideas forward as pilot ideas. A Voice for the Homeless, which is a podcast, and the Community Garden were selected by PATH. Think Dignity is interested in piloting Vital Oxide and Boutique Boxes.

— Ryan T. Blystone


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