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Addressing Homelessness through The Neighborhood Mayors Project

Empowering homeless communities through personalization & empathy through channels of leadership & growth.

Photo of Amanda C. Lim
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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

Homeless populations within different neighborhoods of the same city each have their own unique needs. Our solution involves empowering one or more homeless people to act as “mayors” for their neighborhood. These leaders could interface with local service providers to advocate for the unique needs of their communities. These “mayors” could also receive special training that would benefit their community. For example, they could learn all the services available in their area so they can act as evangelists, recommending relevant services based on their neighbors’ unique needs. Additional training could even include things like empathetic listening or conflict resolution. Ultimately this would help local services deliver more personalized support, and empower communities to help themselves.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

Initially, we'd roll out the alpha prototype in specific neighborhoods & districts in San Francisco. Eventually, we'd roll it out to the greater Bay Area.

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

The neighborhood mayor concept builds a bridge between local services and homeless populations. It creates a conduit for communication between them so homeless folks can advocate for their needs, and services can deliver information, support, training and more through a main point of contact who is intimately familiar with their neighbors.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

This concept empowers homeless communities with a voice to advocate for their unique needs, and creates opportunity for leadership and dignity.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

The concept of “mayors” for their neighborhood will help boost a sense of community for the displaced persons who occupy the specific area. Helping to foster a sense of purpose and belonging in the “mayors” would hopefully be a catalyst for them to pass this motivation on to their surrounding community. Via training and deep communication we could help each “mayor” to develop a deeper insight into the challenges each specific community / neighboorhood thus allowing us to keep track of the impact the scheme would have. Also by keeping this close relationship and checking in with the “mayors” it would allow greater insight into how we could continue to grow and foster the community allowing us to deliver more personalized support to individuals.

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

We learned from local homeless non-profit groups how the needs of different homeless populations can differ from neighborhood to neighborhood. We also learned from secondary research how empowerment and dignity are important aspects of supporting homeless populations that often get overlooked.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

Although San Francisco is a small 7x7 mile city, there is a huge & diverse population. Each neighborhood requires different needs & insights into improving the community. For example, the homeless population within the Civic Center downtown area vastly differs from the Haight-Ashbury community. So, we need to do proper field research to understand what each neighborhood needs and how to tactfully approach the communities to find a lead neighborhood mayor. By having a lead point of contact in each community, we can bring better self-awareness into the needs of each community.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

When it comes to delivering personalized services, no one will understand people’s needs as well as the people themselves, so empowering folks to advocate for their own community is a huge advantage.

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

Ideally, our idea acts as the conduit (or a "project manager") in between Bay Area homelessness related organizations & their clients (the homeless communities). From the client side, our partners/stakeholders will be the actual homeless communities, encampments, and their "neighborhood mayor(s)" chosen. From the partner side, we'll be working in tandem with organizations related to: item/food distribution, drugs/overdose supplies, mental/physical therapy, and more related homelessness organizations within San Francisco.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Being on the move, crossing borders, and/or temporarily settled

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Platform: Creating a community or market that facilitates interaction between users and resources

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Blueprint: We are exploring the idea and gathering the inspiration and information we need to test it with real users.

Group or Organization Name

OpenIDEO San Francisco Chapter

Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

We're the San Francisco Chapter for OpenIDEO and aim to work across several OpenIDEO challenges. We decided to focus on homelessness as it specifically hits home as San Francisco grows & goes through transitions with gentrification, the housing crisis, lack of mental/physical health resources, and more.

Website URL:

Type of submitter

  • We are an OpenIDEO Chapter

Organization Headquarters: Country


Organization Headquarters: City / State

San Francisco, CA


Join the conversation:

Photo of Wesley Wells

It would be interesting to see this project culminate in one of the Mayors having a position on the Local Homeless Coordinating Board

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