This project began with a request for help from a homeless shelter being evicted from their rented premises.
With no land, building, or funds to provide for their clients, the group of 17 cooperating religious congregations (ACT) needed help to find a new home. O’Riordan Migani Architects assisted ACT in finding and evaluating potential sites, making public presentations to address NIMBY opposition to the project, writing grant applications to fund the pre-development and construction phases, and finally serving as the architect to implement the construction of a new three-story building. The new facility houses a full range of emergency assistance services for individuals and families, including a food bank, educational and support programs, referral to medical and other services, as well as emergency housing. The first floor contains the administrative and intake offices, a meeting room for the board and volunteers, and the food bank. The second floor has the dining room and commercial kitchen, where the 17 participating congregations prepare and serve meals each evening, lounge and computer areas for residents, a supervised children’s playroom, resident storage lockers, and classroom space. Because the site has a fairly steep slope, the second floor provides grade level access to a backyard featuring a porch off the dining room and a children’s play area. The top floor includes a men’s and a women’s dormitory with bathroom and shower rooms, and two smaller sleeping spaces with residential bathroom. The latter can be used for mothers with infants or families that may want to stay together after a house fire or other emergency. The sleeping rooms all have sloped cathedral ceilings to recall the image of an attic bedroom and ameliorate the institutional form and scale common to shelter dormitories. The central corridor on the third floor is capped with a gable-profile light monitor to bring daylight into the circulation space and reiterate the house-like gable motif. Materials were selected for minimum maintenance costs, and the color scheme was worked out with the staff psychologist to promote feelings of dignity, self-worth, and hope for a better future.