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Humble Design


As our housing and homelessness crisis persists and worsens, the highest aim of service providers, city and county agencies, and the broader public is to quickly and stably rehouse people who are experiencing homelessness. Indeed, a multitude of programs exist in San Diego that place people exiting homelessness into housing. While securing housing is the primary goal and a great challenge in and of itself, once secured, “just” having a place to dwell ignores the physical, psychological, and social aspects of housing. Once housed, many San Diegans who have recently experienced homelessness must use up all their time, energy, and money to achieve their basic needs. Little is left over to begin to turn housing into a home through the purchasing of furniture and décor: tangible elements that foster a sense of belonging and encourage the use of one’s home as a gathering place for family and friends. While research demonstrates the health benefits of stable housing, it also highlights the additional salutary impact that well thought out housing design has on one’s mental health, social wellbeing, and stability. 

Project Summary:

 This project is an evaluation of Humble Design, a nonprofit organization that provides free interior design services to persons exiting homelessness. In essence, Humble Design transforms housing into a home. Using surveys, interviews, observation, informal conversation, and experiential engagement, we will gain a greater understanding of the impacts of this intervention, both the process and its outcomes.  This evaluation, the first of its kind, offers critical baseline data which can be used to understand long term effects of the Humble Design intervention on stability, social connectedness, health, and wellbeing. It also establishes an important starting point for an eventual comparison, across these same measures, between people receiving and not receiving the design intervention upon being rehoused. We are particularly interested in how Humble Design’s work improves the physical, mental, social, and economic health of its clients and if such potential health benefits improve housing retention. Study findings will be shared at the 2024 World Design Capital, held this year in the San Diego-Tijuana region.  

Project Team:

  • Mirle Rabinowitz-Bussell
  • Leslie Lewis
  • Stacey Livingstone