Maja Jonson

Maja Jonson

Recent AUSB grad with a BA in Liberal Arts, Business and Entrepreneurship, Maja Jonson, used her Capstone project as an opportunity to create an awareness campaign around local and global homelessness issues and the potential of affordable housing as a solution. It took some time to narrow in on her topic and approach to the project, but once she interviewed Rob Fredericks, CEO of the Housing Authority of Santa Barbara (HASB), it all came together.

“I found Rob through my research of the Tiny Homes Project that HASB tried to get funding for,” Jonson said, “I was curious to see how the project was coming along and what he thought of affordable housing as a solution for the homelessness issue. I wouldn’t call our meeting an interview, rather an educational discussion. He had answers for all my questions and concerns, and provided me with information that was very useful for my research and upcoming activism campaign.”

Through her research, Jonson learned that a major block to finding solutions to homelessness are associated stigmas. The perpetuation of inaccurate and incomplete myths and stereotypes about why and how people become homeless, as well as inadequate support and poor infrastructure in the homeless services sector,  means that many people do not have access to the resources to change their circumstances. Jonson learned a lot about the local homeless population in Santa Barbara and wanted to raise awareness by sharing the information with friends and family. She figured that if she found the information shocking and new, so would many of the people she knew.

“I wanted to share my research and my findings with the people around me both in the US and Sweden, Europe where I come from,” Jonson said. “In order to reach my target audience, I used the social media platform Instagram and Instagram stories. I created an interactive awareness campaign with information, videos, images, questions, and polls to get a reaction and response from my audience. The campaign ran for 24 hours and I reached 211 people in both the US and in Europe. (The campaign is still available on my profile on Instagram.) The campaign went better than expected, I received more answers and reactions than I thought, and they were both positive and informative, but more importantly, they were extremely supportive.”

Jonson used her campaign to raise awareness about some common misconceptions around homelessness. Some myths and facts she shared about Santa Barbara’s homeless population:

MYTH: Homeless people just need to get jobs to improve their situation.

FACT: 34%-40%  of homeless individuals have jobs but still can’t afford a place to live.

MYTH: It’s their fault that they are homeless.

FACT: People become homeless for a number of reasons:

  • Loss of a job
  • Lowered wages
  • Health care crisis
  • Increased rent
  • Family emergency
  • Landlord bullying

The most important takeaway from the experience for Jonson was realizing the extent of what can be accomplished through sharing information, even over a very short period of time. Who knows what the ripple effects of her modest campaign may be? The project solidified earlier experience Jonson has had with campaigning.

“This project brought me back to my campaigning days volunteering for the United Nations Association of Sweden when I would go out to high school classes and educate them about different issues that the UN works to solve, “ she said. “I applied the techniques and skills I’ve used for those awareness campaigns to my own campaign about homelessness.”

Jonson credits the experiential style of teaching and learning at Antioch with her own integration of the information she learned through her program and her research. She quoted Benjamin Franklin in her presentation to express that because she was encouraged to get involved with the issues she was researching, the issues became a part of her personal experience in such a way that she would not easily forget what she had learned; “Tell me and I forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn.”