How Can We Provide Permanent Supportive Housing For The Homeless in a Practical and Efficient Way?
Permanent Supportive Housing In Calgary, Canada
The issue with homelessness is prevalent in all major cities, Calgary being no exception. With Calgary being such a large city, there is a large homeless population that have various needs and issues. For most, homelessness is not caused by a hard time finding money but rather underlying causes such as drug abuse and metal disabilities/ sicknesses. A supportive community that provides a safe and more personal environment is massively important for many. Despite how important this is for that population, there is a major lack of Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) buildings. There are a small amount of organizations and companies trying to create the buildings to address this issue. Due to the often small size of the buildings they make, the wait list to gain access to a PSH building can be as long as 2 years long. In order to address this there needs to be a larger solution that still remains practical as these buildings require large amounts of upkeep.
Needs and Goals
After plenty of research, personal experience volunteering, and interviews with people who work with the PSH buildings, I developed a list of needs and goals that I wanted to build my project around. One of the biggest issues with permanent housing for a large portion of the homeless population is how they handle themselves around others and themselves. It is important to remember that finding money is usually not the reason many people end up homeless. Many of these people have mental health issues causing jobs to be hard to hold onto among other things and deal with substance abuse. A major benefit of these buildings is providing a stable housing so that residents can get and keep jobs to help get them out of poverty if money was an issue. The Goals of these buildings are to provide the homeless people that work better in supportive and more private spaces which homeless shelters do not provide. The essential needs are listed below have all been incorporated in the design so that it not only helps the homeless but also makes it easier for volunteers to help them too.
Incredibly durable and cost effective materials. It is very common for places to get trashed so materials that can survive the beating are necessary to save on costs and makes less work for volunteers so they can focus on helping the people and not cleaning up.
While sharing can cause conflict, it is not practical both in upkeep and cost to give each resident their own bathrooms. Between 2 rooms 1 bathroom has to be shared and a foyer is utilized to provide privacy for the occupant using the room.
Soundproofing on walls. People tend to get loud and occasionally disturbing things can be heard coming from other rooms if not soundproofed. Since drugs are such a large issue in the homeless population, it would not be shocking for a resident to OD and hearing that would not be always easy on other residents.
Fairly open floor plan so rooms can be quickly checked to ensure other residents safety and for easy cleaning.
Communal gathering areas to help create a sense of community and support among residents. Ideally there would be both an outdoor and indoor one due to how cold the winters are and how warm the summers can get.
It is critical that the location be relatively close to the C-Train as much of the essential homeless amenities that support them are located in the more central downtown.
Free parking for volunteers so they don’t have to pay the absurd costs of downtown parking.
Staff room so that volunteers and those that work at the building can relax, eat, and store belongings all while keeping an eye on the main-floors residents so no uninvited people can get in.
Plenty of cameras, fobs, and other security devices to help ensure safety for residents.
Solar panels to make clean and affordable energy for the building. Since Calgary gets an average of 333 days of sunlight per year solar energy would be very efficient.
It needs to blend into local buildings as to not draw attention to the residents and building. People usually don’t like to be in the same community as the homeless population so the buildings need to blend in so that it looks more like a building with rough looking people rather than homeless.
Elevator for easy access for mobility impaired persons.
The Site – Downtown Calgary, Canada
The Location for the building is over this lot that currently houses a parking lot. I chose this location due to its proximity to the Bow River, walk paths, green area, and it easy access to public transport. It is close enough to downtown to provide easy access to much of the needed amenities while being enough out of the way that the residents won’t majorly disrupt any communities.
During the 8 weeks I have worked on this project, I have used the 6 step design process to constantly improve on my design based off peer and teacher feedback.
How would you feel about one of these buildings in your community?
How should awareness be brought to the importance of this type of building without creating a stigma around ones that are already or soon to be built in communities?
What more should be added to better support the homeless population?