Date of Award


Degree Name

PhD Leadership Studies

Dissertation Committee

Lea Hubbard, PhD, Chair; Antonio Jimenez-Luque, PhD, Committee Member; Robert Donmoyer, PhD, Committee Member; Gabriel Tait, Committee Member


visual, storytelling, homeless, solutions, Ethnography, critical, reframing


Despite millions of dollars spent over several decades on assistance programs, the nation’s homeless population has increased for the last four years in a row. The number of people reporting as homeless for the first time doubled in San Diego between June 2019 and June 2020. Trying to impose a one-size-fits-all model of care on a population comprised of unique individuals has resulted in many homeless opting for the street rather than subjugating themselves to rules they feel do not treat them with respect and dignity. Yet, the perspectives of homeless individuals are excluded from decision-making dialogue around policies and programs. This critical qualitative study was designed to examine the degree to which using visual storytelling can transform existing power structures and inspire service providers and policy makers to take transformative action. This study used visual critical ethnography to collaboratively co-produce a short documentary with one homeless man in San Diego. Conversations with city, state and some federal leaders about the obstacles to secure housing revealed the critical roles that pre-existing perceptions and lack of knowledge about the challenges that the homeless face account for the primary disconnects in the system. Visual storytelling created behavioral awareness, leading to development of more humanistic solutions. An empathetic connection between leaders and the homeless motivated ideas offering potential transformative change. Results also showed the ways in which visual storytelling, producing and sharing one’s personal story, has both positive and negative consequences for the homeless storyteller.


The video associated with this dissertation can be seen on YouTube here:

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access


Leadership Studies