Tackling Homelessness with Compassionate yet Courageous Designs with Yash Mehta from Defining Humanity

Yash Mehta, Co-Founder of Defining Humanity explore the architectural lessons behind working on sensitive projects.

Tackling Homelessness with Compassionate yet Courageous Designs with Yash Mehta from Defining Humanity

Written by Sudhiksha Srinivasan

The motivations behind running a nonprofit stemmed from a belief in taking action and honesty. Architecture is seen as a tool to positively impact communities, especially those in need, by providing safe spaces and addressing essential needs like housing. The focus on homelessness and affordable housing has been a longstanding passion for Yash Mehta, co-founder of Defining Humanity.

Currently working ss a designer in Lamar Johnson Collaborative(LJC) he was always intrigued by exploring innovative solutions like shipping container housing. Elaborating on how he sees Architecture as a tool to positively impact communities, especially those in need. Aiming to provide safe spaces and addressing essential needs like housing,  Yash believes in taking action which helped him co-found the non-profit organization Defining Humanity.

Design Considerations for a sensitive yet complex project

When asked about the obstacles he needed to tackle to work on such a sensitive project, Yash told me he approaches it with collaboration, research and empathy. These were key learnings and inspirations from projects focused on solving homelessness in New York and California which continue to hold a personal significance as they involve improvement and learning. Collaborative initiatives with organizations such as Home 4 the Homeless added depth and passion his work, reflecting a commitment to address societal challenges with not just creativity but also dedication.

Querying about the design considerations while working on the complexities of such a challenging project, Yash highlighted the importance of engaging with communities while also securing funding. Understanding the importance of architecture to not just provide shelter but as a way to provide dignity, stability and sense of community for those in need helps drive this project. Design principles focusing on identity, stability and flexibility aim to help create sustainable and equitable solutions.

Collaborative initiatives with Homes 4 The Homeless and innovative partnership with Vessel, a company in China have led to the development of pre-fabricated home units which epitomize efficient construction strategy yet prioritizing human-centric design principles. He also elucidated on how addressing also required a holistic approach such as policy changes and social initiatives.

The constant fulfilment of doing good

Yash strongly believes that the work on such a project helps offer diverse rewards beyond financial profit but a unique learning architectural challenge and an opportunity to collaborate with empathetic individuals. The focus is to create uplifting and game-changing yet sustainable designs by exploring innovative solutions inspired from successful products such as the electric car. Yash gauges success mainly by the project’s ability to fulfil its intended purpose and vision, facilitate community feedback while empowering individuals to transition out of homelessness efficiently. A humane yet impactful approach which helps drive this mission is the constant  need to understand community needs and gaining user feedback.

In opportunities as such where constant communication is key to understand the multifaceted nature of the design challenge, Engage as a tool helps create a platform for the volunteers on the project to conduct interactive visioning and feedback sessions.

Direction for like minded changemakers

 There are multiple design students and professionals in the world who are committed to driving such an impactful change yet there is direction required to be able to implement this. When asked to offer advice for such motivated individuals, he excitedly said he would first commend them on such a courageous pursuit. He believes this journey of embracing self-discovery has its own challenges but staying true to oneself and constantly learning from different sources and resources is key which helps lead to fulfilment and success.

To be a volunteer at Defining Humanity, visit their website and fill out the contact form. They welcome all, regardless of background or expertise. Their core beliefs are: Passion and drive are what matter most in making a rewarding impact.

Yash’s efforts and consequential successes are testament to how nuanced creative thinking and empathetic problem-solving can create ripples in a project as sensitive as solving homelessness.

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