2024 Awardee

Lena Miller

Chief Executive Officer, Urban Alchemy

Dr. Lena Miller (she/her) is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Urban Alchemy, a social enterprise that heals communities challenged by extreme poverty, mental illness, addiction, and homelessness. Founded in 2018, Urban Alchemy employs over 1,300 formerly incarcerated individuals and serves thousands daily. When individuals are suffering in public spaces, Urban Alchemy offers solutions. When a neighborhood, street, or intersection earns a reputation as a place to avoid, they turn it around. Urban Alchemy has improved neighborhood conditions by engaging in over 6,000 de-escalations without police involvement, providing thousands of unhoused people with hygiene and other services, saving the lives of over 900 people from overdosing, sheltering over 1,000 people each night, and removing over 400 tons of trash from neglected communities.

Dr. Miller has more than thirty years of experience serving low-income and homeless youth, adults, and families. She grew up in Bayview Hunters Point in San Francisco, a diverse community affected by pollution, substandard housing, limited employment, and racial discrimination. As with many residents of Bayview Hunters Point, Dr. Miller was personally impacted by mental illness, addiction, and homelessness in her own family. She designed Urban Alchemy by combining her experiences growing up and working in a vibrant working-class community, partnering with the city government, and studying resilience. The organization is modeled around one fundamental question: how would you want your loved ones treated if they were using our services? Before founding Urban Alchemy, Dr. Miller was the Founder and CEO of Hunters Point Family, a youth development program that supports young women.

Dr. Miller’s sabbatical is a “perfect time to get my second wind.” She plans to spend time with her grandchildren and travel in a different culture and landscape so she can experience herself uninterrupted by her professional responsibilities.