Page 1





I mean, I don’t think I’m alone when I look at the homeless person or the bum or the psychotic or the drunk or the drug addict or the criminal and see their baby pictures in my mind’s eye. You don’t think they were cute like every other baby?

-Dustin Hoffm an

No matter who you look at,



As a member of Philadelphia University’s College of Architecture and the Built Environment Design X capstone, I was involved in a semester long project researching and designing different ways to improve the lives of homeless women at Project H.O.M.E.’s Women of Change Safe Haven. The following pages outline the issues, research, design, and fabrication of new improvements generated throughout the semester.





Project H.O.M.E. and WOMEN of CHANGE













How many people are homeless? The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty estimates between 2.3 and 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development an estimated 671,888 people experienced homelessness in one night in January 2007. Some 58 percent of them were living in shelters and transitional housing and, 42 percent were unsheltered.

Lost Veterans About 40% of homeless men are veterans according to research by the National Coalition for Homeless. On any given night, 200,000 veterans are homeless.


A Largely Urban Phenomenon •

71% are in central cities

21% are in suburbs

9% are in rural areas

What is chronic homelessness? According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, 23 percent of homeless people are reported as chronically homeless. According to HUD’s definition, a person who is “chronically homeless” is an unaccompanied homeless individual with a disabling condition (e.g., substance abuse, serious mental illness, developmental disability, or chronic physical illness) who has either been continuously homeless for a year or more, or has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years. In order to be considered chronically homeless, a person must have been sleeping in a place not meant for human habitation and/or in an emergency homeless shelter.

Less Homelessness in Philadelphia On average, around 4,000 individuals are chronically homeless (homeless for one year or longer or four episodes of homelessness in three years) in the city of Philadelphia. In 2005, the City’s Office of Emergency Shelter and Services served 14,986 homeless people (including both single adults and family members) through its emergency shelter system. Of this number, 9,468 were adults without children, 2,011 were heads of households, and 3,507 were children.

How do we end homelessness? 1. Develop effective solutions for those on the street including targeted outreach and appropriate facilities and services, particularly for persons with substance-abuse and mental-health problems. 2. Strengthen the system of shelter and services that enable homeless persons to make the transition to stability and job readiness. 3.Provide permanent solutions— jobs and housing—so that people can break the cycle of homelessness and become stable and productive citizens. 4.Strengthen homelessness prevention programs so that no one ends up in shelters or on the streets. This includes reinvesting in economically vulnerable neighborhoods; improving the school system; making sure people have access to health care; and providing jobs at a living wage.

Charge to Help As part of the Design X Homeless Socio-Political studio, we were charged to help aid in regards to the homeless problem. Given the task to improve the living conditions of a homeless shelter in Philadelphia, a semester was spent researching, designing, and building. Our goal remains to help improve the lives of the people living in the shelter. Hopefully the work generated during the semester can continue to benefit others who unfortunately are chronically homeless.


Home The Values of Project H.O.M.E. The work of Project H.O.M.E. is rooted in our strong spiritual conviction of the dignity of each person. We believe that all persons are entitled to decent, affordable housing and access to quality education, employment, and health care. We believe in the transformational power of building relationships and community as the ultimate answer to the degradation of homelessness and poverty. We believe that working to end homelessness and poverty enhances the quality of life for everyone in our community.

The Mission of Project H.O.M.E. The mission of the Project H.O.M.E. community is to empower adults, children, and families to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty, to alleviate the underlying causes of poverty, and to enable all of us to attain our fullest potential as individuals and as members of the broader society.We strive to create a safe and respectful environment where we support each other in our struggles for self-esteem, recovery, and the confidence to move toward self-actualization. Project H.O.M.E. achieves its mission through a continuum of care comprised of street outreach, a range of supportive housing, and comprehensive services. We address the root causes of homelessness through neighborhood-based affordable housing, economic development, and environmental enhancement programs, as well as through providing access to employment opportunities; adult and youth education; and health care. Project H.O.M.E. is committed to social and political advocacy.An integral part of our work is education about the realities of homelessness and poverty and vigorous advocacy on behalf of and with homeless and lowincome persons for more just and humane public policies. Project H.O.M.E. is committed to nurturing a spirit of community among persons from all walks of life, all of whom have a role to play in making this a more just and compassionate society.


We believe that the critical resources entrusted to us to achieve our mission must be managed honorably and professionally .

Less Project H.O.M.E. Services • Housing and Street Outreach Street Outreach Women’s Emergency Respite Center Supportive Housing and Services Alumni Program Affordable Rental Housing Affordable Homeownership Program  • Community Development Economic Development Program Health Services Program Community Organizing Learning Centers and Computer Labs •

Education and Employment Employment Services Art Program Veterans Program Social Enterprises: Café and Gift Shop




WOMEN OF CHANGE 2042 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103

Overview As a “Safe Haven� for chronically homeless seriously mentally ill women, WOC consists of 25 semi-private dormitory style beds. This program offers a small scale environment for the most vulnerable homeless population many of whom are older, physically frail and unable or unwilling to negotiate the larger shelters due to untreated mental health issues sometimes combined with active drug & alcohol use and/or poor physical health. The program provides 24 hour staff support, medication monitoring and a meal program. Case Managers provide on site support and referrals to community resources such as mental/physical health services, drug & alcohol services, education, employment (supported and non-supported), weekly on site nursing services and recreational activities. and compassionate society.



Dormitory Space

The Dormitory Space houses the beds for the women. In this space currently there are 25 beds spread throughout the space, partitioned by donated office partitions. Issues such as ability to be cleaned, durability, and the always present possibility of pest infestation, the current situation has become dire. Our initial goal was to design a station to provide privacy, cleanliness, and safety to this space. Throughout the semester, the sleeping station project remained our main focus. Designed specifically for this shelter, if successful our project can move beyond WOC and help shelters elsewhere better serve the needs of those housed.


Community Room

The community room at WOC consists of some couches, chairs and a table. During the winter months when a code blue is announced, this space gets filled with emergency bunks. A need for more seating and privacy screens provided a programmatic approach. Much of the research done in the initial part of the semester was applied to this design. ENTRY SPACE

Entry Space

The entry vestibule to the Safe Haven originally only had a Spartan desk, and sofa. One of the goals was to essentially spruce up the space, and provide signage for those entering.




In preparation for our first client meeting, schemes were designed. These musings were generated without any input from the client about the specific instance we were designing for. As an exercise to look at the idea of a shelter in a broad sense allowed us to move forward with an eye for a larger setting. The ideas presented were well received during our meetings.


The panel scheme relies on panels to provide the structure. Using panels to house tracking for shelves, the space becomes customizeable for the resident. Once broken down, the panels are easy to relocate.



As the wall system repeats, units are created providing privacy for the users. Also the panels collapse on themselves to create a flat panel for transportation. The side walls once opened out would provide support and stability.



A system of a “kit of parts� allows the administration of shelters to order only the parts they need. Different parts would fill different roles, such as the storage 1-4, bed and storage. It system also allows for customization of a space.


The pod design feature a cocoon type concept. Coming as a collapsible unit that provides a sense of enclosure, the program is contained within the unit for easy transportation and deployment.






Throughout the design process, we had several meetings with the clients regarding the direction and concerns they brought up. Director of Project H.O.M.E. Paul Sassani was a great leader when directing how we as designers should proceed. We would bring broad ideas to him and throughout discussion we would find a consensus to follow up on. As a client concerned with liability, life safety issues, and budget, his calm enthusiasm helped throughout the design process. Robin Bonfield, the director of Women of Change, also was influential in the client meeting process. Her input on matters regarding the daily routines of the residents helped us programmatically deal with issues such as storage and materiality. Actually interacting with a real client throughout the semester was critical for our learning experience. All real projects have a client with needs and wants. Part of the job of an architect is to listen to these wants and needs, sometimes contradicting themselves, and interpret the best solution for the right price. In our case, having input from Robin and Paul sometimes did differ, but we ended up with a solution that appeased all parties.







Tyrel, maintenance leader at Women of Change, looking at a lighter and key test on the plastic.


A meeting at the Project H.O.M.E. headquarters discussing the needs of the project.


During our mid-review, Paul Sassani visited to look at the two prototypes we generated.


A meeting discussing the possibilities as to where we wanted the design of the sleeping station to go.


Discussing materials, we came to the conclusion that plastic and steel would be used for sanitary reasons.


We visited Women of Change with the finished prototype to have Robin and her staff “kick the tires�



each panel are to sustain healthy air circulation, as to not promote the trapping of smells, and to allow a better sense of openness while still being private. Ample private storage for belongings creates a sense of ownership of the space while increasing the efficiency of space.The smooth surfaces can easily be cleaned and discourage bugs. Finally, the modular nature of the Plane Scheme can be manufactured quickly and efficiently, reducing the overall cost of the system.





Temque voluptatur? Tae vellora tionsequi sitate voluptatiur maximpost, a iur, sum volupta tinullesti atiur, quam quiam harchicae nossiti omnimagni nis etuscit, nis nem cumquamet voluptaquam fugianimus escium rehent qui voluptibusa volorpos

After meeting with our client, the Veronica process was narrowed Justine Tarrant, Keefer, Nicholas Germani, Jeffrey Dellaquila, Matthew Link, Matthew Marcarelli down to two schemes. One was named the “Plane” and the other the “Wave”. Both names originated from the form the scheme. Modeled to scale, the decision to jump to full size was reached in order to understand the spatial qualities of each design. The Plane variant comprises of modular parts: the screen, bed, and wardrobe. A kit of parts has the advantage of the ability to generate various layouts providing the possibility of expansion. Using thin plastic panels and corrugated metal sheets results in durable, private sleeping quarters.The metal sheets at the top and bottom of each panel are to sustain healthy air circulation, as to not promote the trapping of smells, and to allow a better sense of openness while still being private. Ample private storage for belongings creates a sense of ownership of the space while increasing the efficiency of space.The smooth surfaces can easily be cleaned and discourage bugs. Finally, the modular nature of the Plane Scheme can be manufactured quickly and efficiently, reducing the overall cost of the system.


Temque voluptatur? Tae vellora tionsequi sitate voluptatiur maximpost, a iur, sum volupta tinullesti atiur, quam quiam harchicae nossiti omnimagni nis etuscit, nis nem cumquamet voluptaquam fugianimus escium rehent qui voluptibusa volorpos

“Plane” Scheme

“Wave” Scheme





MATERIAL EXPLORATIONS As a Design Build Studio, we needed to understand the material that our project would be composed of, since it would be built and used.Through our discussions with the client, concerns about bugs and the need to be hygienic directed our material search. The notion that a plastic shroud would be draped over a steel skeleton directed our material testing. With the plastic, we subjected it to several hardships. Literally we beat the scrap out of it and the HDPE (high density polyethylene) performed well. As for the steel, learning the differenced between mechanical connections and welds and their inherent properties became crucial to our design decisions.





THE HEADBOARD The design of the sleeping station ended up as a kit of three parts.The station consisted of the Headboard, Wall, and Whip. The headboard needed to have some integrated storage options that were removable for cleaning. Two concepts that were developed were the hanging basket option, allowing for storage to penetrate the wall. Concerns about the permeability of the wall led to the sliding boxes. After discussion with Occupational Therapist students, we adapted the boxes from four to three. The final material of this portion ended up being made of the same material that plastic cutting boards are made of to ensure the durability of the headboard and storage.





THE WHIP The end part of the sleeping station is the whip. Curved to provide an appealing aesthetic, the whip is a steel frame that holds a free sheet of PET-G held in place by the compression of the plastic. This allows us to experiment with different storage options. Originally a swinging set of drawers, the final iteration will only have open shelves because of value engineering to make budget. The reason for having translucent PET-G plastic is at the request of the client for security reasons. This allows the WOC person on duty to make efficient security walkthroughs while still keeping the station semiprivate for the women.





THE WAVE vs. THE PLANE As the design progressed, the wall section ended up as two different options. The Plane consists of a single sheet of plastic spanning between the whip and headboard. This scheme unfortunately did not have the lateral stiffness we desired so we ended up using the wave. The Wave began as a material test of the plastic and ended up being the design we used. A steel frame of square tubing pierces through a sheet of plastic. This undulating form is not only aesthetically pleasing, but provides a high rate of rigidity for the weight and amount of material used. Also, the bars passing through the space double as racks to hang items on such as clothes and towels, something the client wanted with the storage.






PROTOTYPING As the design became a cohesive whole, the task of prototyping and fabrication began. Real materials were used during this process. Learning how to weld became critical to the success of this process. Grinding, sanding, welding, and drilling were commonplace during this process at the shop. Coming to meetings and class completely covered in grime, oil, and steel residue was common.The idea of getting down and dirty completely applied during this class. We may not have been clean or pretty, but we definitely had fun in the process.







COMMUNITY ROOM DESIGNS After the design process of the Sleeping Station came to a close, we began the design process of a community room upgrade. Several ideas were bounced around for the space, including seating, tables, and ideas about installations. After presenting these ideas to ourselves, we narrowed them down to the Chaise Lounge, Reclaimed Granite Tables, and Stacking Furniture. Once brought up to the client, Robin, her need for a screen and seating system became evident. Out of that meeting, the Holey Wall was developed from ideas brought forth because the panels with holes would provide a sufficient amount of privacy for the women and on the other side would be a seating element providing more seating in the community room. Development of the Holey Wall began in order for us to deliver a finished product with the remaining time we had to work on the project. Most of the development of this project came through physically building it as opposed to the traditional method of drawing and modeling. This helped us to expedite the design process.





HOLEY WALL STEEL FABRICATION Utilizing the techniques we had developed when making the sleeping station, we proceeded with a steel frame system. After several iterations and an adjustable frame, we came to a final design of the frame. In order to produce three benches (with three frames each) a jig was made in order to ensure exact repetition. Once the frames were welded, ground, and sanded, paint was applied. Making a painting rack proved to be almost as difficult to make as the frames themselves. After drying and several coats applied, the frames were ready to go. Adjustable feet made from scrap HDPE allow the benches to slide easily without tipping or scuffing the floor.





HOLEY WALL PANEL EXPLORATION AND FABRICATION The pattern of the panels applied to the bench were crucial because of the need for transparency yet still maintaining an ergonomic seat. Several patterns and models were developed and discussed. Two schemes, the holes and the slats emerged. Unfortunately, the slats looked and acted too much as ladders so it was decided to go with the holes, hence the name Holey Wall. Placing the holes to allow for more permeability at the top to allow for more sightlines contrasted to the more dense pattern of smaller holes at the bottom to allow for comfort when sitting. The process of fabrication of the panels allowed us to use Rodon Signs and Design’s CNC machine to cut out the patterns. From there we cut out the panels and applied them to the frames.



CONCLUSION AND FINAL THOUGHTS As the semester winds down, looking back on the body of work produced and what I learned amazes me. Research on the homeless situation and how it affects the lives of so many set up a great semester. As a class, we were excited, motivated, and ready to learn. Although we did not design a building or an architectural piece, we went through every phase that comes with the professional field of architecture. From meeting with the client to having our design bid on to be built by a contractor, this experience has been invaluable. Working on a team also made this semester a success. In the profession, we will rarely, if ever, work alone on a design. Teamwork is a cornerstone of producing architecture and knowing how to adapt and work to meet the team’s needs is crucial. This semester was a great preparation to what we will be doing next. Fabrication and learning how materials react and come together tectonically becomes vital to truly understanding a design. During the semester, we were constantly at the Fabrication Lab experimenting, building, arguing, and progressing. Most of my learning was done with a drill, saw, or welder in my hand. Although all of the work was done for class, the most rewarding part of designing and fabricating these objects was seeing Robin’s face light up when we presented them to her. Knowing that the labor we put in will improve the lives of underprivileged people is a great feeling. After all the dust has settled, my experience in the Design Build Studio was a lasting experience. I am confident that the lesson I have learned throughout this spring will help me in my future endeavors.



A SPECIAL THANKS TO: Professor David Kratzer, who’s guidance, enthusiasm, and direction made this semester the success it has become.


Fabrication Lab


For providing the class with a Nexus Grant. Without this money, our project and material explorations would have remained in the theoretical stage.

Project H.O.M.E.

For helping guide us through the design project.As a first client, the positive demeanor fostered a positive learning experience throughout.


For generously donating their time and the use of their CNC (Computer Numerical Control) Machine to help fabricate and cut out the Holey Wall Panels.


For the Fabrication Lab and Bill Christensen for allowing us to set up shop and practically live in the FAB LAB for the whole semester making noise and a mess (We cleaned it up)

Works Cited PBS, 29 June 2009. Web. 10 May 2012. <>. “Homelessness Map.” National Alliance to End NAEH, 12 Jan. 2009. Web. 7 May 2012. < detail/2797>.

“None of Us Are Home until All of Us Are Home.” Project H.O.M.E. Web. 7 May 2012. <>.


PhilaU DX Design Build  

During the spring of 2012, PhilaU's DX Architecture Studio collaborated with Project H.O.M.E. to help tackle the issue of homelessness. This...