Tina Hovsepian didn't just want to get an "A" on her class project -- she wanted to change people's lives, too.
The architect is the inventor of Cardborigami -- the collapsable, transportable and origami-inspired personal shelter she started inventing as a University of Southern California student in 2007. What started as Hovsepian's academic assignment has become a feasible way to alleviate homelessness in her hometown of Los Angeles.
(Photo: Tina Hovsepian)
Hovsepian -- who is currently raising funds to expand her product onto the streets of L.A. -- was honored at a Women in the World event on March 18 for the design, and was awarded the Toyota Driving Solutions grant of $50,000 to further her work helping the homeless.
As she explained at the event, Hovsepian was moved to advocate for those in need after studying abroad in Cambodia, where her program helped redesign an impoverished school.
"It was... the first time witnessing firsthand third world poverty, and it got me really thinking about how privileged I am to be able to live in America, in Los Angeles, have an education, have supportive... people around me," she said in a video produced by Women In The World, noting homelessness on Skid Row "is worse than [in] any third world country," because the U.S. has the resources to do something about it.
Hovsepian at a Women in the World event on March 18. (Photo: Tina Hovsepian)
Hovsepian is the founder and executive director of Cardborigami, the nonprofit, which is aiming to use the product as a way to secure permanent, long-term housing for those who need it.
The organization developed a four-step path out of homelessness, according to Hovsepian. First and foremost, Cardborigami will prioritize providing immediate shelter -- such as its product -- to those who need it. Secondly, the nonprofit will work with partner organizations that can provide social services to clients.
Securing permanent housing and then sustaining that housing through job placement are the third and final steps in the group's model.
Hovsepian is trying to better a homelessness crisis in her hometown: Los Angeles County had 58,423 homeless individuals in 2013, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) -- about a 16 percent hike from 2011.
Cardborigami -- which is similar to other personal shelter inventions that could help the unsheltered homeless -- may be one small step in the right direction. Hovsepian said she's aiming to reduce the price of creating her product from $30 to $20 to be able to help more people with less funding.
"When you speak to people on the streets like I have done, you just learn that everyone has their own story," Hovsepian said. "I want to be that voice to share that -- maybe we can all have a new perspective towards homelessness, and utilize design to attract more resources towards the cause."
To support Cardborigami, click here. To help fight homelessness on a national scale, support PATH (People Assisting The Homeless) by using the Crowdrise widget below.