LOS ANGELES — Perspective is everything, and USC engineering students like Ayeshna Desai, a Los Angeles native who traveled to Lesbos, Greece, Europe's largest refugee camp, found it shocking to see parallels between survivors of war abroad and Angelenos surviving homelessness locally.
She and her team back home at USC created a company called Torch to address temperature issues for those living in tents.
"Observing and being directly in the refugee camp would be one of the most life-changing experiences I ever had," Desai said of her experience.
She traveled with her USC engineering class before the pandemic to find solutions for challenging global issues. The experience led them to create a tent insulation tile made of aluminate, which keeps you warm during winter and cool during summer. But as they returned, they realized that need is just as urgent right here in Los Angeles.
"When the pandemic hit, we realized that what we were working on for the refugee crisis was very, very applicable to the homelessness crisis in L.A., especially since they are in our backyard," she explained.
And so they began their local L.A. outreach, distributing as many torch tiles as possible to communities such as Skid Row and Veterans Row, where homeless encampments are rampant. With the pandemic's effect on unemployment only increasing homelessness in Los Angeles, the student-created designs are critical and could very well be lifesaving.
"Realizing that this is what people have to live with, constantly, outdoors, in those conditions, all the time, is absolutely not OK. And I'm very grateful that we are able to at least provide some sort of relief for those that are experiencing it," she said.
To find out more about the Torch team's continuing mission to provide relief for both the homeless community here in Los Angeles and refugees abroad, you can visit their website jointorch.org.