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Meet Women’s History Month Local Hero Jeeni Criscenzo

Women’s History Month 2016 Honoree

Photo credit: Ron Stein

Photo of 2016 Women's History Month Nominee Jeeni Criscenzo

Jeeni Criscenzo is a pragmatist, performance poet, and political activist (she even ran for Congress in 2006). She's always searching for real ways to let the good of others shine through. That's why she was nominated.

Specifically, Criscenzo's nomination was from the Women's Museum of California for her work defending women's rights and aiming to create economic justice. Part of these efforts are with San Diego's homeless community. Criscenzo, and the teams at Homeless to Housed San Diego and Amikas, are working to build "tiny houses" for people living on San Diego's streets.

If all goes to plan, Homeless to Housed will raise $20,000 to maintain what Criscenzo calls a "mean-time solution" — a six-month settlement in downtown San Diego, complete with 10 "tiny houses," porta-potties, and a full-time security guard.

Why six months? That's a hopeful trial period to show the city what good can be done in downtown's southeast corner. "Let us be for six months, so we can prove this model," Criscenzo says.

The first "tiny home" cost $1,000 to build, according to Criscenzo. Its maiden voyage will be in a "pots and pans parade" in April, thrown by Homeless to Housed. The group will tout their mini model home in the parade on 17th street — the same street they aim to revamp.

Criscenzo has never been homeless herself, but has experienced financial hardship raising kids as a single mom. Those experiences help her empathize with struggles of others, and understand how easy it is to find oneself in trouble. "All it takes is a loss of a job or getting sick." She says she's been fortunate to have gifts others may not, such as good health and supportive family — especially her current husband, who she says has supported everything she's done.

As Jeeni looks ahead to her the March unveiling — regardless of outcome — she says her ultimate goal still remains: "For every person thrilled to be cruel, there are hundreds who know it's good to be kind. I have to give them that opportunity to do right."

Women's History Month Local Hero Jeeni Criscenzo

See past Women's History Month honorees here.

Meet fellow 2016 honoree Teodora Purcell.

Nominate your hero by filling out this form.
Questions or comments on this story can be directed to Nate John at njohn@kpbs.org.

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