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Urban Challenges: Homeslessness in San Diego


USP 142A&B is an innovative two-quarter practicum course series focused on homelessness in San Diego. It will run through the winter and spring quarters of the 2022-2023 academic year. The first quarter's course will provide an overview of the problem (locally, statewide, nationally and to a lesser extent, internationally), insight into its complex (structural, historical, psychosocial, cultural) roots, and an exploration of models and methods for addressing the challenge. Through panels, tours, and informal conversations, students will be introduced to both staff on the front lines, and unhoused San Diegans who are in the midst of this ongoing personal and societal crisis. Our primary community partner for the research portion of the class is Jewish Family Services of San Diego (JFS). Among its many other programs, JFS provides safe overnight parking lots for unhoused individuals and families who live in their cars. While at the parking lots, individuals receive access to a variety of social services with the ultimate goal of securing permanent, positive housing. These will be our primary research sites, though there may be others. The winter course will prepare students for the spring quarter's deep dive into hands-on research. Students will be trained in, and will undertake and analyze, surveys, focus groups and oral history interviews. The aim will be to better understand the human stories and trajectories of homelessness, as well as to help identify what interventions help, both in the midst of a housing loss crisis, and further "upstream" before people fall into such dire straits.

About the Application Process
Space in the classes will be limited. We welcome students from all disciplines, though a proportion of spots in the course are reserved for USP and RED students. Selected students will enroll in USP 142A (Urban Challenges: Homelessness in San Diego) during Winter Quarter 2023. Enrollment in the second (Spring Quarter 2023) course is contingent upon satisfactory contributions in the winter course and approval of the professors. The winter course is worth 4 units and the winter (more field-based) course is worth 6 units. Both courses must be taken for a letter grade. The winter class is scheduled to meet on T/Th (time will be announced when the course schedule is released for winter), but there will be one required evening outing to visit the Safe Parking Program, and two Saturday commitments: one, a half-day retreat on January 21st (9am-1pm), and the second, a tour of senior affordable housing sites and social services on February 4th (8am-2:30pm). The spring course will meet once a week on Wednesday evening (5-8pm), in order to accommodate the lives and schedules of people in the Safe Parking Program.

The program is co-taught by Dr. Mirle Rabinowitz Bussell and Dr. Leslie R Lewis, faculty members in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning. The course series will satisfy the USP research methods requirement, and will offer an excellent potential research topic for senior capstones.  

To apply for the course series, please complete this year's application. will be accepted on a rolling basis until we reach the enrollment limit.  The final deadline is October 20th, 2023 at 11:59 p.m. 

Questions about the program may be directed to the faculty instructors:
Dr. Leslie Lewis:
Dr. Mirle Rabinowitz Bussell: