Dreams for Change

San Diego nonprofit and Golden State Opportunity Community Connect Program Grantee Dreams for Change’s approach to fighting poverty and elevating their community is three-pronged. They’ve named this their Three Pathway Model: support to remove barriers, employment and education, and income stabilization. All of this is geared at alleviating and preventing homelessness and making sure it isn’t a permanent state.

Teresa Smith, CEO of Dreams for Change, PhD, believes that one of the most important aspects of the organization is their ability to look at things from a different perspective.

Dreams for Change VITA

“I started this organization to do things very differently,” she said. “When I see a need, I enjoy doing the research and figuring out how to solve that need. We want to see where the gaps are and really make a difference.”

Dreams for Change runs and participates in several different programs throughout San Diego and Imperial Counties. Their programs include promoting the CalEITC and offering Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) free tax preparation. Last year, they helped prepare over 8,000 tax returns, helping taxpayers save over $1 million dollars in filing fees.

Dreams for Changes also operates the “Safe Parking Program”, providing three safe parking areas for those living out of their cars. Not only does the program give people living in their vehicles a safe place to park free of harassment, it also helps people plan for their futures. Dreams for Change assists those parking with finding permanent housing, helping them find jobs if needed, helping them develop job skills, and connecting them with resources and support.

In addition, they also recently took over San Diego’s new Safe Sleeping program. This program provides just over 400 tents to over 550 individuals at two separate locations on city property.

Workforce Development and financial literacy programs are also a main focus for Dreams for Change, including paid job training and financial literacy classes, tying back to their dedication to employment and education as one of their main pathways.

Dreams for Change


For Janet Hernandez, VITA Program coordinator, it’s the people Dreams for Change helps everyday that motivates her and guides the work of the organization.

“There was a client, a single mother, that really spoke to me and it felt like I was looking in a mirror,” she said. “She came to our site one day to get her taxes done and was talking to me about how her son was going to graduate from high school soon. She worried that she didn’t have much to offer him. She wasn’t able to pay for his studies and couldn’t afford a graduation present. As I completed her tax return, I was showing her all these credits she qualified for. She was overjoyed because with that money, she might not be able to buy him a car, but she could buy him a nice dinner. It touched me because I’ve been in a situation and to see her get that win spoke to me on a personal level.”

Learn more about the work that Dreams for Change does for their community.


By Jamie Servantes