SPIRITED CareOregon's eNews

Human Centered Design Workshop: Life on the Streets
Photos by Eleanor Gorman, Communications
All photos taken with permission of the subjects.

Adrienne Guckenberger

Homelessness in Portland has reached an all-time high. Almost 4,000 people are living on the streets for a variety of reasons. Loss of a job, untreated mental illness, domestic violence and drug addiction are just some of the many factors that contribute to a person ending up on the streets. How can we bridge the gap between seeing them as street people and instead see them as individuals?

A week ago, I participated in a workshop at CareOregon sponsored by the 3D (Discovery, Design, Development) team. The 3D team within our Human Centered Design program is the result of our collaboration with IDEO.

IDEO, a global consulting design firm situated in Silicon Valley, has been collaborating for the past two years with CareOregon, working on prototype concepts to better assist our members. As a result, CareOregon has prototyped M.E.D.S Chart, Give2Get and Food RX. What makes IDEO unique is their human centered design approach, which tailors each prototype to fit the specific needs of the company they collaborate with.

The group began the day by sharing a tangible item or a photograph that either represented a time when we went through a life change or a time in our life when we or someone we knew felt vulnerable.

From left to right: Joe Sullivan, Ralph, Gary Cobb

Building upon that, we then split up into groups in an empathy exercise. My group’s assignment was to immerse ourselves for the morning in the life of the homeless population and to put ourselves in their shoes.

We met Gary, an outreach coordinator at Central City Concern. Formerly in the U.S. Coast Guard, he had spent nearly 20 years homeless and struggling with addiction during the early ‘80s. Clean and sober for the past 14 years, in November 2000 he became a CareOregon member. Now as an advocate for the homeless with Central City Concern, Gary helps clients take control of their health and their lives.

Gary couldn’t walk more than a few steps without somebody coming up to him to ask how he’d been or what he was up to. It was evident that these were his people and this was his turf. He knows the adversity they face, their trials and tribulations, and the darkness and despair they have dealt with. He has been there himself.

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