Spreading the Love

USD students gather together to make sandwiches for the homeless


Recognizing and embracing human dignity is at the core of USD’s mission. Today, one of the greatest challenges that society faces is homelessness.

“San Diego County has the fourth-highest population of homeless individuals in the country. The last Point-in-Time Count that the city conducted — to estimate how many people are sleeping on the streets and in shelters — counted more than 8,000 people,” says Kate DeConinck, ThD, a teaching professor within USD’s Department of Theology and Religious Studies and a member of the Urgent Challenges Collective leadership team.

The collective, a two-year effort funded through USD’s Envisioning 2024 strategic initiatives, aims to address the issues surrounding homelessness and food insecurity through research, teaching, and advocacy and engagement. One way it’s making a difference is through the inaugural Homelessness and Food Insecurity Awareness Week, which took place Oct. 21-24.

The weeklong event addressed the multidimensional issues connected to homelessness through critical and creative thinking. From packing lunches for Father Joe’s Village to a Housing and Food Access Resource Fair, participants found ways to take an active role and promote positive change.

“If you think about the word ‘Catholic’ — thinking about this being a universal church that is open to all across the globe, regardless of background — what does it mean to be a church that is a space for all people?” asks DeConinck. “This question cuts deeply into the issues surrounding homelessness, thinking about the dignity of other human beings. How do we promote a community where all people have the opportunity to thrive?”

Finding answers to questions like these is at the heart of the university’s mission: enabling others to flourish. As a Catholic institution situated in a large, metropolitan city, being at the forefront of finding solutions is essential.

“This is about making people more aware of the dynamics that are happening in our community surrounding homelessness and food insecurity, including in our campus community,” says DeConinck. “Not everyone knows that we have students on campus who are facing food insecurity or who are facing moments where they’re unsheltered or don’t have stable living situations. How can we make this a better-known fact and have a call to action that encourages people to think about what they can do?”

Finding solutions begins with awareness and empowerment, and that’s the overarching message of Homelessness and Food Insecurity Awareness Week: We each have the power to make a difference in the challenges impacting our society. — Allyson Meyer ’16

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