I returned to Baltimore to go to an open house they were having at the newly-opened homeless shelter. Sandra Thomas, the Shelter Director gave the tour to me and other interested parties.
-They are able to serve 275 clients a day: 175 men, 75women, and 25 in a convalescent care unit
-They serve 3 meals a day (get lunch from Our Daily Bread mission across the street)
-Each person has a case manager to assist with future placements, mental health services, medical attention, advice about how to secure a job or housing, advice about money they can be receiving -> they follow them through the process and make sure they won’t become homeless again
-Addictions counselors are there all day every day
-The building is shared with other nonprofits (helps generate some rent/income)
-There is a security person at the desk on each floor to make sure no one leaves/enters/causes trouble during the night (before they had this, there were some unspecified security issues)
-The users stay for varied lengths (the city’s 10 year plan to end homelessness says the maximum should be 120 days, but they do not kick people out until they are ready… or it would be counter-productive)… one man was recently there only for 2 weeks… others are waiting for benefits to come in to get to affordable housing
-There are permanent ejections for fighting, stealing (but they still try to help them down the road)
-There is a highly transient population here – people come for a variety of reasons: loss of job, injury, mental illness, just got out of jail, victim of abuse
-Once their beds fill, they also bus 100 extra men to another facility to stay for the night
-The population at the beginning of the month is less; people have just gotten the benefits
-Laundry and administrative offices;
-Outreach comes in (Healthcare, etc.)
-Intake area – desk that receives people on a first-come, first-serve basis… they enter their information into the computers
–Mail delivery at the front desk – they go through mail with clients as it comes
-The men’s and women’s facilities are separate throughout the building: the day areas on the first floor are across the hall from each other; the sleeping halls are on separate floors
-In the main hall, there are 4 donated computers to help build resumes, etc.
-There is a front bathroom with a shower, as sometimes they will have clients come in that just want a shower
-On the main floor, there are the counseling rooms and the main dining hall (there are shifts of meal times, as not everyone will fit in at the same time)
-This new facility is the first time the clients got beds… they do not give pillows
-Each sleeping floor has an additional separate sleeping room for people that might have medical concerns, are transgender, of have some other reason why they might not feel comfortable sleeping in the dorm
-Each floor has their own laundry facility for the users to wash their own bedding or clothes as they please; there are also restrooms and showers
-There are supply cabinets at the ends of the beds that are for the employees to restock and replenish linens, toiletries, cleaning supplies
-The convalescent care unit (for people just out of the hospital) features exam rooms, a lab, medicines, and nurses; so the people there don’t have to leave the room if they don’t feel comfortable
-On the top floor, there are two conference rooms that open onto a green roof/balcony – they let the other nonprofits use the rooms for meetings
My third visit of the day was to The Baltimore Station, a therapeutic rehabilitation/homeless shelter in a reuse firehouse. I met with Michael Seipp, the executive director of TBS. He initially planned to have the architect present for our discussion, but she was unable to come because of a meeting with a client. He did a great job of explaining architectural features of the facility that I might find interesting, and he was very supportive of my ideas.
-It was begun in the late 1980s as the “South Baltimore Homeless Shelter” by women who felt a calling to support the homeless men in the area by using church basements to take care of 20-30 homeless men
-Once the program picked up, the city offered to lease them the abandoned firehouse
-As the program developed, the founders made some epiphanies: the users were drug or alcohol abusers, and once they came out of the program they were enabling the cycle – to they had to change the program
-Almost all of the men were veterans – so they wanted to give them access to the VA and VA medical care
-The more money coming in, the more services they can provide
-In 2004, they had 40 beds
-In 2006, they added onto the building and now have 91 beds
-In 2011, they have 152 beds on two different sites -> the firehouse building; a refurbished Catholic Rectory; and 2 old rowhouses nearby
-Users can stay up to two years as part of recovery process
-The average stay is a little over a year
-The users benefit from staying together as long as possible -> peer relationships, mentoring — if they have to move buildings it won’t be as successful
-If he did it again, he wouldn’t put 91 beds in one facility – it is too many to create a strong community between everyone
-Because the firehouse is a historic building, the addition to it had to consider a number of features: setback from the corners, protection of the cornices, could only have 3 stories instead of 4 like they had hoped
-Symbolic features include 12 windows in the addition: 12 general orders of the military; 12-step program of recovery
-Wall of doors in the counseling suites – representative of the opening and closing of doors
-Multipurpose room: where meals happen; rec center; meeting room – on ground floor
-High ceilings allow lots of room for monumental spaces, help conceal the mechanical
-When the building was created, the fire department used horse-drawn carriages… so remnants of the horse stables still exist
-They expanded their kitchen to meet culinary standards; now they have a goal of setting up a catering company
-There are double room occupancies that have apartment-style rooms: these contain a bathroom, two bedrooms, and a living space.
-Green roof for mitigation (not accessible to users)
-Dorms are connected by half-levels to give some separation
-People in the rowhouses have completed the program, but they still need some support
-The architect was very good at getting involved in the programming and meeting with the guys to get an appropriate balance of division and openness
-If they could wish for something else, it would be for more space: they wanted to have another floor, for small meetings, counseling areas
Special Program Aspects:
-Each person has a counselor to support them who gives them individual goals to achieve before they graduate
-There is nothing special about the security of the building, as the men are on waiting lists to get into the program… they want to be there, if they misbehave they get kicked out
-As a therapeutic community, the residents have to immerse themselves in the greater community: they are engaged with the neighborhood, help clean up parks, etc.
-When I asked if there had been any resistance from neighbors about a homeless shelter/drug rehab center being put in, he explained the above and said how the program is perceived in a positive light. It is a positive contribution to the community, even if its users are not the most desirable clientele at first…
-Reuse is important to the fabric of the future…
-Michael used to work for HEBCAC and gave me some insight into them and the opposing EBDI, who I met with later.
-EBDI, as he explained, focused less on community involvement and was set up by Mayor O’Malley and Johns Hopkins hospital – they relocated all of the Middle East neighborhood residents
Field trip week is next week, and I’m beginning to nail down my trip. I’m flying to Baltimore, MD to learn more about their blight, abandoned buildings, and efforts to revitalize the inner city. In Baltimore, I plan on meeting with the following organizations/people:
*Historic East Baltimore Community Action Coalition, Inc.
1212 N. Wolfe Street
Baltimore, MD 21213
“HEBCAC is a nonprofit community development organization founded in 1994 by Johns Hopkins University, city and state officials and area residents. Its mission is to work with residents and other stakeholders to improve neighborhoods in the 220-block area bounded by Edison Highway, Aisquith Street, North Avenue, and Fayette Street. Since its founding HEBCAC has implemented a series of programs that address both the physical infrastructure and human capital issues faced by residents of the neighborhoods within which it works.”
*East Baltimore Development Inc.
1731 Chase St.
Baltimore, MD 21213
“East Baltimore Development Inc. (EBDI) is a nonprofit organization that is leading the transformation of an area north of the Johns Hopkins Medical Campus. Along with physical renewal, EBDI is committed to honoring the history of East Baltimore, and we work closely with area residents in setting our goals and agenda.
EBDI is supported by partnerships with the U.S. Government, the State of Maryland, the City of Baltimore, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, Johns Hopkins Institutions, The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, The Atlantic Philanthropies and many others.
Under EBDI’s leadership, the East Baltimore Development Initiative – the largest redevelopment project ever undertaken in Baltimore – seeks to reverse historic trends and transform the disinvested neighborhood into a thriving mixed-income community for families, businesses and public institutions.”
*The Baltimore Station
140 W. West St.
Baltimore, MD 21230
-This program of recovery from drug addiction/homelessness incorporates three programs of eliminating homelessness under one roof: A 28 Day Program, Half-way House, and Transition (up to 2 years).
-It is located in a rehabilitated fire station.
-It features a number of helpful programs, including: group and individual counseling, medical help, job readiness, budgeting, education, household responsibilities, and finally working and mending broken relationships
As described by AIA, Baltimore “Klaus Philipsen, AIA is a respected example of what is means to be a citizen architect. Klaus Philipsen has used his professional skills over his entire career to effect better communities. His consistent selfless advocacy for urban revitalization, public transportation and managed growth have shaped Maryland’s nationally recognized smart growth policies, the renaissance of the former smokestack city of Baltimore and inspired young people to become citizen architects themselves.” He has also been a critic of Baltimore’s “Vacants to Values” program and I look forward to learning about his response to Baltimore’s issues.
I might be meeting with a couple of people in D.C. too, but this is what is set so far!
After my first abstract, Janice gave me the following comments:
Janice’s comments to first abstract:
-homeless might also move to the city – city’s resources are a pull, drawn in that way, not necessarily just remain there
-reword “advance humanity”
-can be specific – give examples
-in what way will I develop criteria for investigation?
-look at data
-what are you proposing/looking to change
-mention idea of increasing site to scale of neighborhood, bldgs. throughout
-studies – ex/ how can it be open and yet secure… issues of user specific design -> social issues that become spatial
-specific examples: program; how it changes
-what you know, what you propose to do, how you propose to do it, in an architectural way
-cyclical on the way up! Balance at the end
-reword “centralized” – inability to adapt and lack of other skills, more than just economic diversity – localized economy?
-structure as 2 symptoms, results -> if we address them together, 2 birds with one stone
-problems of reusing buildings – why renovate, problems associated with it, identity and fabric
-define issues of homeless – security, stigma, associated with having them, yet how they get better
-changing occupancy, difficult yet opportunity
-funding – process often blurs the result
-because multiple people involved -> yet are invested in it
-cause of homeless
-evaluation criteria into design criteria
My abstract then developed into:
Many postindustrial American cities are suffering from a loss of jobs and population due to various contributing factors. Since 1950, cities such as Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Detroit have lost between 35% and 61% of their populations; since 2000, the same cities have lost 5-25% of populations. In July 2011, the average unemployment rate for the United States was 9.3%, with some cities reaching up to 30%. In the recent recession, unemployment has been highest in cities with a lack of sectoral diversity and a resulting excess of workers that only have training in one discipline. Cities that had a diversified economy fared better, but they still faced a suburban exodus and resulting massive abandonment. When the citizens fled from the city, they left behind thousands of empty buildings: there are an estimated 20-40,000 abandoned buildings in the city of Baltimore alone. Abandoned structures can quickly act as a catalyst for blight in the immediate region, causing property values to diminish significantly, as well as contribute to increased crime and danger. Cities that now have an eroded tax base must pay to maintain services to these regions, thus further depleting the shrinking city’s resources. Though the reuse of these buildings involves dealing with unknown existing conditions, a city can maintain a sense of identity by conserving the energy and materials invested in the buildings.
Some of the people that remain in the metropolitan area are left unemployed and become homeless. 1 in 100 Americans are homeless at some point in a given year: a HUD count reported over 643,000 people seeking shelter on a given night, with an estimated 2.3 – 3.5 million Americans who experience homelessness annually. Though chronically homeless people are often ignored, they cost cities millions of dollars: the city of Detroit estimated that the creation of a large-scale homeless shelter would save taxpayers more than $5 million annually in emergency room visits and jail stays. Therefore, the forgotten properties of a city should be aligned with the needs of the citizens to create something useful and mutually beneficial. If there is building stock present, and there are people in need of shelter, can we utilize our resources to transform these citizens into positive catalysts for their community?
In order to help make the transition, resources such as job training centers, health care, counseling, will provide technical support. Co-location of an emergency overnight shelter, temporary lodging, and permanent supportive housing will allow for users to support each other and move up through the different levels. Group programming and gathering spaces within the facility, and engagement with the surrounding community will help contribute to an environment that will do much more than just house people. The users of the shelter might be victims of abuse, mental illness, alcoholism, or drug abuse; thus the spaces will need to provide support and a feeling of security. The renovation of a number of existing structures in a neighborhood will help create a mixed-use facility that helps people transition back into society. Both the formerly homeless citizens and the community would benefit from this intervention, as the users and the buildings will become positive stimuli for the city’s vitality.
Then Wes commented on this abstract after I submitted it:
Wes’s comments to 2nd abstract:
I think you can mention Indianapolis in your abstract, to remind the reader that this is happening “here,” not just out “there.” Remember: Indianapolis’s mayor’s office estimates 10,000-12,000 abandoned houses in Indianapolis. That’s a lot! How about Muncie? What sort of quantities and lost qualities and possibilities are we talking about?
Are there any precedents that you might cite? Programs, buildings, successes in places such as Youngstown, or Detroit, or Toledo, or Flint? Boner Center in Indianapolis might be of interest.
Might you break up the program into much smaller elements, to spread the facilities in order to impact more neighborhoods? And instead of creating some sort of mega-center.
Might you develop some sort of kit of programmed elements that can be implemented based on local conditions and needs?
How to keep the costs low would seem important. At the same time, how to provide quality of service and architecture?
How to foreground PEOPLE will be an interesting challenge.
Very challenging to imagine architecture and renovation can be the sort of catalyst you suggest. As I said, architecture and preservation certainly can be an approach as there is a need, but in some ways it’s difficult even to find need, so many neighborhoods in the cities you cite are so far gone, the best or the most appropriate “thing” that is imagined and that is being generated locally is urban gardens, that might feature a self-built architecture of rainwater collection, tomato vine growing frameworks, composting bins, and maybe a gate, all done without any sort of “permission,” or “authorization,” or central authority control.
Maybe you could pick organizations in various distressed neighborhoods in various cities and design new facilities for them, using reclaimed buildings, in order to further stabilize local neighborhoods. The Boggs Center in east Detroit comes to mind, now in a house, maybe it could use a slight upgrade or addition or connection to the neighboring abandoned house. Also, Braddock, Pennsylvania comes to mind, especially an outdoor bread-baking oven there. See: http://onesmallproject.org/bread-baking-oven-braddock-pennsylvania/
Oftentimes I think we should find what is going right and improve on it, slightly. Instead of going in “big” with some sort of “intervention,” nurture whatever is already going well. Find little local successes and bump them along a little with some of our intelligence and energy. It would be interesting in your abstract to mention such successes, and maybe to specifically call out a few.
This: http://archinect.com/features/article/50579/compared-to-what (especially towards the end)
And this: http://places.designobserver.com/feature/this-is-flint-michigan/24198/
might be of interest.
Both wanted me to add lots of detail to my abstract, so it got pretty lengthy. I will keep Wes’s comments in mind as I go forward. My abstract will be clearer in the end once I figure out the details of what I want to present.
Though I know my abstract will evolve once the specifics of my project are decided, here is where I stand currently, at 3 weeks into the researching process:
Many postindustrial American cities are suffering from a loss of jobs and population due to a number of contributing factors. The centralized industries in these cities have severely downsized, exposing their lack of economic diversity. Cities that had a centralized and diversified economy fared better, but they still faced a suburban exodus and resulting massive abandonment. When the citizens fled from the city, they left behind thousands of empty buildings. Abandoned structures can quickly act as a catalyst for blight in the immediate region, causing property values to diminish significantly. With less people living in abandoned regions of cities, there are more opportunities for crime and danger. Cities that now have an eroded tax base must pay to maintain services to these regions, thus further depleting the shrinking city’s resources. Some of the people that remain in the city, however, are left unemployed and become homeless. Chronically homeless people cost cities millions of dollars annually in emergency room visits and jail stays, yet they are often ignored. Therefore, the forgotten properties of a city should be aligned with the needs of the citizens to create something useful and mutually beneficial. If there is building stock present, and there are people in need of shelter, can we utilize our resources to contribute to and advance humanity? By transforming the existing architecture into a place that improves the lives of the formerly homeless, we can do much more than just house them. A multi-use facility could create a sense of community and responsibility, as well as prepare them to be positively contributing members of society. Both the formerly homeless citizens and the city as a whole would benefit from this intervention, as the users and the buildings will become positive contributions to the city’s vitality.
At first, I was looking for precedents of adaptive reuse, as well as precedents of homeless shelters/low-income housing. While I found some of those that I will add in another post, I then found a number of projects that actually combine what I have been thinking about. There are (hopefully) still more to come, and I will look more in-depth into the precedents… but for now here is what I’ve discovered:
Adaptive Reuse and Homeless Shelter/Low-Income Housing:
Aloha Inn – Seattle, Washington – Begun by SHARE (Seattle Housing and Resources Effort) It is now a program of the Archdiocesan Housing Authority of Catholic Community Services of Western Washington.
SHARE first created a tent city for the homeless, which then evolved into a Bus Barn, and then resulted in the purchasing of the former hotel with city money. The Inn offers transitional housing for 66 homeless people (at a time) for up to 9 months, along with a number of services to help them get back on their feet. The members are provided with a number of complimentary services in return for helping manage the building, and they encourage one another to succeed. They can save money during their stay here and take steps to improve their lives:
-Vision and Dental Care
-Drug and Alcohol Help
NSO Bell Building – Detroit, Michigan -
Though the project is due to be completed in fall of 2012, there are plans to convert the 255,000 square -foot building into apartments and supportive services for formerly homeless adults. The Neighborhood Services Organization has raised at least $42 million of the $50 million project so far through a number of public- and private-sector donations. The project calls for 155 one-bedroom apartments; “addiction treatment; mental-health counseling and case management services; life skills training; a library; computer, art and music rooms; a gym and fitness center; chapel; laundry; walk-out roof gardens; and a small sundry shop.” They estimate that the project will save the city approximately $5 million a year (as a chronically homeless person can cost taxpayers $50,000 a year).
Deborah’s Place II – Chicago, Illinois – Deborah’s Place – Manske, Dieckmann, Thompson Architects
It is an adaptive reuse of a former church, goods store, and manufacturing facility. This structure provides shelter in three ways: overnight shelter, transitional shelter, and permanent housing to women that have been homeless. There are also a number of community spaces, a group kitchen and dining room, and a learning center. By co-locating multiple types of housing programs under one roof, the long-term residents can be housed and maintain their sense of community. The building can also adapt to the women’s needs that move into the shelter and allows flexibility for women to change between programs within the shelter.
Rebecca Johnson Apartments - Chicago, Illinois – Deborah’s Place – Weese Langley Weese Architects
This building is a retrofit of a former orphanage/community center into 90 affordable units of housing. The upper floors feature the housing units, bathrooms, and kitchens, while the lower floors offer administrative offices of Deborah’s Place, a community room, and a job education center.
VA Building 116 – Los Angeles, California – New Directions, Inc. – D/E Architects
This adaptive reuse of an abandoned 1929 building provides permanent housing for 156 homeless veterans and a 24-bed emergency shelter. The “therapeutic community” encourages responsibility, community engagement, substance counseling, therapy, education, and job training.
Lexington Commons – St. Paul, Minnesota – CommonBond Communities – Elness, Swenson, Graham Architects, Inc.
This adaptive reuse of a former nursing home is an affordable housing community for single adults who meet the state or federal definition of long-term or chronic homelessness. The LEED facility also features laundry, computer lab, lounges, and community spaces.
Commerce Building – St. Paul, Minnesota – CommonBond Communities
This former office building was converted into 100 apartments for people who earn 60% Area Median Income or less, along with 4 units reserved for people with chronic homelessness.
I talked with a number of professors to try and develop my thesis ideas in this initial stage and see whose interests and advice meshed well with my goals.
My major advisor with be Janice Shimizu. She suggested at our first meeting that I take the following steps:
-find/look at existing organizations or government programs in place (in various cities) – this might tell me what the issues are that I should look into more specifically
-find examples of physical precedents of adaptive reuse and homeless shelters, and if lucky – both!
-look at competitions for urban reuse/regeneration
-understand what is already out there, glean the top ideas, so then I can push it farther
-begin to decide the scale of the city and project I intend to have
-delve more into the question I want to answer, as well as how to solve that problem
-who pays for it? what systems are in place?
-how do you manage all of the interest?
My minor advisor is Wes Janz. We discussed me looking further into following:
-The Flint Land Bank, East Baton Rouge, Youngstown
-Frank Hegeman – Partners in Housing Development Corporation -> said he would redo buildings but you have to let us bring in undesirable people
-Coffee shop in Chicago that isn’t obvious that it’s targeting a certain audience (elderly people, the provides a program of activities throughout the day)
-Jayve and Grace Lee Boggs Community, as well as talking to other future connections in several cities that Wes knows
-CDCs in larger cities (Look into the Mapleton Four Creek CDC)
Where to begin? This blog is going to explore the ups and downs of the process of creating my final project. When I started, I just knew that I wanted to utilize abandoned buildings to make something useful out of existing structures. I’m not quite sure where this will take me…
What kind of site? Do I want to look at cities that are facing extreme abandonment, such as Gary or Detroit? Do I want to look at a city that is already utilizing these adaptive reuse techniques, like those on the east coast? Do I want to stay focused on the area that I know best, the mid-west? This is something that I will begin to look into more closely… because I want my improved structures to really be a result of the need of the surrounding community.
As I began to research information about abandonment, I found that in cities such as Gary or Youngstown, the unemployment rates in the former one-industry city have a clear impact on the abandoning of buildings. Thus, if the people are gone, it makes sense that they leave behind buildings with them. Perhaps my structure could be a job-creating center, where people could get training in jobs that will diversify the economy.
Further, this made me wonder if unemployment goes hand in hand with homelessness… and are there cities with high rates of abandoned buildings that also have high rates of homelessness? Why not use the abandoned structures to house those that have no place to live?
These ideas will develop further, once I decide what needs are present in the community. For now, these are my thoughts. I am going to find some precedents of buildings and existing organizations that have begun to work on what I am interested in researching.