Humanising Homelessness

City of Los Angeles
Winner of Bloomberg Mayors Challenge

Humanising Homelessness

Received $1 Million Grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies

To tackle housing insecurity and homelessness crisis in Los Angeles, I worked on the core team for Mayors Challenge at LA’s iTeam. During this time I designed ideation sessions, workshops, and engaged in participatory design and co-design activities, to define and research on a policy that benefits both the stakeholders and brings Angelenos together.


los angeles, United States

Design FELLOW + Policy core team

the challenge

To bridge the distance between housing crisis and homelessness, to create solutions that brings Angelenos together.

The impact

Over 200 shelters available and place 1000 individuals with lived experiences, in the first 3 years of the program.

About Mayors Challenge

In late 2017, the Los Angeles Mayor’s Innovation team submitted an idea for research and funds to Mayors Challenge along with the 300 cities. Mayors Challenge is a country wide competition between cities, where cities and their partners try to critic the problems citizens encounter everyday and understand how cities could work with their inhabitants to define the future together. In its fourth edition, Mayors Challenge is trying to encourage bold, creative, and impactful ideas that hold the power to solve pressing issues.

The City of LA wanted to tackle two of its biggest issues through this grant. They proposed to use Additional Dwelling Units as a tool to alleviate the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles.

"To help combat the crisis, the City of Los Angeles will offer incentives to make it easier and cheaper for single-family homeowners to build accessory dwelling units in exchange for allowing a homeless resident, with social supports and subsidies, to rent the unit for the three years."



In three months the team conducted 7 sessions, where each one was scripted keeping different stakeholders in mind and following are few of the methodologies used across canvassing, workshops, focus groups, and interviews.

Participatory Design: This workshop was about building new relationship and starting a cycle of feedback and consultation from providers.

Online Surveys: At every stage of the project we conducted online surveys to collaborate with Angelenos and hear their thoughts about the program.

Reaction Cards: A methodology used to evoke emotions and start a conversation on a desired topic.

Co-Creation: The worksheet is based on drawings that we do as kids, where the participants filled in colours and sketched their answers.

Dot Voting: A transparent voting system, where users vote together and discuss the findings together to reach a consensus on priorities.

Comparative Analysis: An elaborate review of existing experiences provided by stakeholders to facilitate an organic think-loud.

Storytelling: Each person was asked three subjective and objective questions to build their house on the sheet, including what’s around them and what they think a ‘home’ is.

Grant Application

35 Champion Cities were granted an initial fund of $100,000 to research and develop their ideas through collaboration, interaction, and prototyping. The effort was directed towards refinement of their ideas to apply for a $5 Million Grant. My fellowship lasted for 14 weeks of the research and testing phase, during which I also got the opportunity of help my team brainstorm and work on the final Grant Application.

More than anything, witnessing the transformation of your research findings in a grant application was a significant learning experience. Where I’ve been learning research through design at ArtCenter, in my internship introduced me a much needed skill where our team brought together the qualitative and quantitative information; to propose a plan that is pragmatic and humanistic.


As designers, we work with varied individuals, on different problems, and work differently towards the solution. I, for one, approach problem solving through lateral thinking, while working with individuals with linear thinking.

Working in the City Hall for 14 weeks was an enlightening experience because I worked with individuals who are as passionate about social innovation and change as me. Each day, the Mayors Challenge team came together to work on a program they believe in and as a result we drafted a program that might be able to help Angelenos, but also helped us grow as individuals during research.

It’s one of the best things City has done in 30 years, but there are barriers.
~ Homeowner, LA