One Woman’s Mission To Create Cardboard Houses For The Homeless

On some level, we all want to change to the world. To leave a fingerprint on human history. To be a part of something bigger. For most of us, it’s a daunting proposition, easily abandoned when “real life” gets in the way. But not for Tina Hovsepian — architect and founder of Cardborigami.

Growing up in Los Angeles, Hovsepian was deeply affected by the poverty she saw around her. “I constantly witnessed homelessness,” she says. “And it was always in the back of my head: Why does it have to be this way? Why are there people living on the streets?” It troubled her to see adults and children struggling to survive without any measure of comfort, and she knew it was a problem she couldn’t ignore. She knew she had to do something.

Hovsepian went on to study architecture at USC, but never forgot about the plight of the less fortunate. In fact, she continually thought of the people she had seen on L.A.’s Skid Row.

“Every city has an area that you can call Skid Row,” she explains. “And in L.A., it’s a whole city block, if not more, where people are just living in these horrific conditions on the streets. And it’s just a very terrifying condition to see and witness.”

Though she was moved, Hovsepian wasn’t sure what she could do. Then she began studying Buddhism, and it completely changed her view of the world. “The philosophy teaches that we’re all interconnected in some way,” she says of her practice. “And that helping others, essentially, is like helping yourself and making the world a better place.”

As Hovsepian grew more involved with Buddhism, she became increasingly convinced that she needed to be a more active part of creating positive change. She thought about the danger and discomfort the homeless population in her city faced, and focused her energy on solutions.

“I had this studio,” she says, “for a semester-long class where we had an open-ended project. I focused on helping the homeless community in L.A.”