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Think Dignity gets hands-on to fight the homelessness crisis in San Diego

March 4, 2020

Man hands out supplies

Think Dignity is more than a nonprofit organization, it’s a movement to fight for basic human rights. Think Dignity was started in 2006 by a group of young professional women who wanted to find real solutions to the issue of homelessness in San Diego.

The Workforce Partnership reached out to Think Dignity’s Executive Director, Mitchelle Woodson, to find out more behind their hands-on work in our community.

What sets Think Dignity programs apart from others working with the same mission? 

We are a local homeless advocacy agency with a mission to inspire, empower and organize the San Diego community to advance basic dignity for those living on the streets. We embrace a vision where basic dignity is understood to be a universal human right; where everyone has a voice; and where those that suffer from a lack of services have a safe place from which they can be heard.

Think Dignity provides homeless San Diegans consistent, sufficient and safe access to services that provide stability and allow them to begin the transition out of homelessness. Since 2006, Think Dignity has embraced and expanded its role as an advocacy agency committed to advancing basic human dignity through programs such as the transitional storage center, mobile showers and legal representation. 

Are there specific programs for youth?

In 2017, Think Dignity began a unique, one-of-a-kind program: The Homeless Youth Legal and Advocacy Project (HYLAP). HYLAP provides direct representation to homeless and at-risk youth ages 14-27 in their criminal defense matters, while also pairing up each client with an advocate who connects them to social services to provide a more holistic approach to addressing barriers in their pathway to success.

Since 2017, we have directly represented more than 160 homeless and at-risk youth in their criminal defense matters and have saved over $500,000 in court fees and fines. Our client successes include overcoming housing insecurity, gaining stable employment, enrolling into four-year universities and most importantly, pursuing their passions.

Professional clothing boothHow has our partnership helped to advance your mission?

The Workforce Partnership has been an incredible resource for the population that we serve by getting them ready for the workforce and connecting them to employers ready to hire.

Last Spring, Think Dignity partnered with the Workforce Partnership and the Central Library to host our first ever Career and Resource Fair. With the help of our incredible community partners and volunteers, we connected nearly 400 people experiencing homelessness with access to employers, social service providers, professional clothing, undergarments, accessories and hygiene items. Thanks to our partnership, the event was a huge success!

What can San Diegans do to help?

The State of California is experiencing a homelessness crisis, with more people experiencing homelessness than ever before. Recent estimates by the Regional Task Force on the Homeless’ 2019 Point in Time Count indicate there are 8,102 homeless individuals in San Diego County—the fourth largest homeless population in the nation.

California’s homeless crisis not only leaves people without a home, but also leaves them vulnerable to illness, disease, discrimination and criminalization of their poverty. In order to find the most effective solutions to addressing homelessness, we must recognize the importance of a multi-disciplinary approach to providing more holistic support for our homeless community. 

We must remain bold and uncompromising in standing on the frontlines alongside our homeless neighbors, to fight for a San Diego where everyone has a safe place to lay their heads. We must also demand courageous leadership to advocate for basic human rights. 

We must remain bold and uncompromising in standing on the frontlines alongside our homeless neighbors, to fight for a San Diego where everyone has a safe place to lay their heads. Click To Tweet

During Think Dignity’s winter Survival Supply Distribution, we met a young man who had just moved to San Diego to begin a new life. Just the week prior, all of his belongings were stolen. He stumbled upon our distribution hoping to find a pair of dress shoes for the job interviews he had lined up for the week. Fortunately, we had one pair of dress shoes, exactly in his size. As we handed them to him, he became overwhelmed with tears and gratitude, sharing that this was the one good thing that had happened to him in a while.

We are reminded that even the little moments provide lasting impacts and continue to move us toward our vision. We believe that change is possible. We know that there is still much more work to do but we remain hopeful. We encourage you to continue to stand with us as Dignity Defenders as we take action to accomplish the extraordinary.

To learn more about Think Dignity’s work and to sign up to volunteer or donate, please visit thinkdignity.org.  

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