North Hills, a community neighboring the California State University, Northridge campus, is battling increasing housing costs and trying to find solutions for an emerging homeless population.
To raise awareness while instilling fundamental skills, CSUN journalism professor and alumnus David Blumenkrantz partnered with a local nonprofit organization to teach graduating journalism students how to advocate for the homeless and those struggling with poverty in North Hills.
Blumenkrantz, a documentary photographer who has worked with the homeless community since he began his career in the early 1980s, designed the senior capstone course, “Journalism 498 Senior Capstone Advocacy for Nonprofits.” It engages students to use writing, photography and multimedia content in work with a local nonprofit organization, North Valley Caring Services (NVCS).
Blumenkrantz received CSUN’s Community Engagement Disciplinary Grant for the spring 2019 course to support the students’ efforts to create more content for NVCS.
“The grant helps the students get involved with the community instead of just reporting on it,” Blumenkrantz said.
Blumenkrantz has been a longtime advocate for the homeless, using his lenses and pen to shine a light on unhoused people in the San Fernando Valley and beyond. Blumenkrantz received CSUN’s Exceptional Creative Activity Award in 2018, for his work on “The One of Us” documentary project, that explored homelessness in Los Angeles. He drew parallels from his decade of work in Africa, with street children and other marginalized populations, that began after his college years at CSUN. Blumenkrantz earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1985, as well as a Master of Arts in 2003 and a Master of Fine Arts in Visual Communication at CSUN in 2009.
“Back when I was an (undergraduate) student here, I was a photography intern at the Daily News,” he said. “There was a homeless man sitting at a bus stop and I would always wonder what’s going through his mind. I started talking to him, and he told me how he fell through the cracks. I took a portrait and a photograph of his hands and later, I won a scholarship for my work. I thought to myself, ‘if I’m going to be a photographer, I want to document something that has meaning.’”