D.Talks: Design Solutions to Address Homelessness

2018 January 16

Notes from the event


Panel: Kris Kepler, Brian Singer, Stephanie Ashley


Why are people homeless?

- Policies
- ‎Mass Incarceration
- ‎Lack of mental health resources
- ‎Diminished government support for homelessness programs

Why are we still in this situation? Why can't we figure out how to get out of it?

Are there any stories about the people you connect with that would help us understand who we're working with?

- Mobile hygiene units. Didn't initially know how people would react. Interacting with the guests as if they were in a five star hotel
- ‎Humanizing people.
- "Anybody can be homeless." There are different kinds of people living on the street from all walks of life.

What is at the forefront of challenges we face?

- Complexity of the issue.
- ‎'Tipping Point', trying to solve chronic homelessness: Homeless for a year or more and have a disabling condition OR four episodes of transitional homelessness in three years. ~40% of homeless people in San Francisco have been in foster care. 30% of people in jail have been homeless, 60% coming out of jail because they lose apartments/homes/opportunities.
- ‎"We can't get lost in the complexity of the problem."
- ‎Average cost of housing in SF is $1100. Unsheltered people in SF make $0-$900. Would only take 0.5% of housing budget to house these people. Complex to get to that solution, not impossible.
- ‎Community-based approach. You can have a house, but do you have a village? It's important to make people feel successful through channels of support.

How do we get boots on the street?
Is there a city that we might look to as a role model?

- Salt Lake City. They just gave people housing. Church helped pay for a lot of it.
- ‎There are very few people that are unhousable. All they need is a key, a door, a house with dignity, and the awareness to get home.
- ‎Portland. Design innovations: if someone owns a house with an x sized lot, a tiny house would be added to your plot. Once their stay was completed, the owner would get the house for future use.
- ‎It's about engaging the community to create something that offers people a solution to the problem.

Design constraint in the Bay: Cost, land, housing stock. Has anything started to work that did not in the past?

- Tipping Point: Trying to use the probate wealth in San Francisco to increase the effectiveness of the city.
- ‎What's happening the other 270 days off Airbnb's rental limit? Can a partnership be made to house those people?
- ‎To bridge that has, Tipping Point is working on 'Moving On'. People in permanent supportive housing don't need to be there forever. Program: Person talks to landlord with room for rent. Brokers relationship and convinced private landlord to take someone from permanent supportive housing and then free up permanent supportive housing. People are afraid of poor people. We need to get over that. How does the design community imagine new possibilities to solve this problem and get people living indoors?
- ‎Oakland takes empty lots and builds Tuff Sheds, providing shelter for six months.

Why isn't this conversation happening at a national level?

- 'National Coalition on Homelessness' spends a lot of resources on municipalities.
- ‎Any effect has to occur at a local level. Conditions affecting the crisis require a lot to undo. The government has to take an interest in solving the symptoms causing these problems in the first place.
- ‎Activism and buy-in happens at a local and hyperlocal level. How do you galvanize people to come together and get past the fear, the anxiety of living near homeless people or giving up land to house them?

How is radical hospitality being taught and spread?

- When you have a philosophy where care is expected, you have to hire people who care about the relational connection.
- ‎Where do we draw our boundaries? It's about how you deliver the service.

Are the people getting the service also being taught these relational skills?

- Acts of kindness. Pay it forward. The community that's creates.. it's hard to quantify that.

The first thing people need is money. The second they need is a pillow. Typical low-income housing in California is $400,000. Can you build a unit that costs $50-60k so people can pay their rent? Permanent supportive housing being temporary can be a good thing, but the problem needs to be localized.

- People are not pushed out of PSH. There's a lot of people who reach a point where they want to move. In the current model there's not an exit path that supports PSH. Subsidy that pays that person to be housed stays with them.

70% of homeless in SF were once housed in the city. How can we build a network of support, offer opportunities, and give design the potential to intervene? How do you expose the need and create the connection between different populations, then turn that into a grassroots effort?

- Awareness as a method for building empathy.

Are there services to support the services? Who helps the people trying to help others?

- It speaks to our national opportunities. The government, at present, feels little obligation to support the people who are under-represented and under-supported.

When food is a surplus, what else do they need?

- Socks, tampons, winter coats, gloves, foot warmers, solar blankets, phone chargers.
- ‎What is the gap and how do we meet it?
- ‎Volunteer for an organization you are passionate about.
- ‎'Digneato App'

Unemployment takes precedent offer homelessness. What is your sentiment on organizations promoting social good? What time do they need to take? The enterprise as the driver of social good -- what are their responsibilities?

- Organizations point to city, city points to organizations. It's important for both. How do organizations follow-on to support the cities? Bottom up engagement is more helpful. CSR reps - corporate social responsibility reps. Orgs consent the tone.

Why is housing not considered outside of the city? Farmland with community housing, etc. Could we create success for homeless to live where there is space?

- People who have a housing subsidy or care provider tied to San Francisco. Housing voucher won't cross county lines.
- ‎Logistically a little more difficult.
- ‎People feel San Francisco who is their home. Example: LGBT people kicked out of their homes to come to San Francisco. If people feel at home here, they should be treated as if they are citizens of the city and community.

January 25th: San Francisco Public Press all-day workshop. AIGA SF website.

Find what makes you passionate about this issue. Discover the impact you can make. Connect with people and see where it can take you personally.

Intervene in the de-humanization that's so pervasive in the city. Treat the homeless like your neighbors. Get to know them on a personal level. We must actively fight against de-humanization.

We need more connectors who will make these solutions more permissive and acceptable.

Zachary Snader