Currently, there are no organizations that evaluate existing shelters for health and dignity concerns, and there is no standardized tool that can be used to assess shelter design. Given how widely existing shelters vary in size and design, a flexible tool is necessary in order to address specific needs within a common framework. Our auditing tool establishes a standardized method to assess and improve existing emergency shelter spaces.
Our tool focuses on four major shelter areas:
- The entrance/queue,
- Common waiting areas,
- Sleeping areas,
- and Restrooms.
Input from people with lived experience sleeping in shelters is central to our research, which has identified the importance of qualities such as privacy, quietness, lighting, sense of control, and perception of safety.
Establishing a systematic method of evaluating shelters will not only maximize improvement of each shelter, but it will also facilitate scaling up this work. In simple terms, our auditing tool is an aid to evaluate shelter spaces in order to prioritize areas for improvement in an individual shelter. We offer this auditing service to municipal governments, major NGOs, local nonprofits, and individual shelters, and we plan to eventually outsource the audit in order to expand impact.
This auditing tool will be available as an open source guide for non-structural modifications to existing emergency shelters. The guidelines that we publish will include recommendations for types of physical interventions, as well as recommendations for their fabrication and installation. We hope that these guidelines will serve as a model to improve design standards for adult emergency shelters.