The main service of our organization is outfitting shelters with design products that address identified shortcomings (including lack of safety and privacy) and prioritize resident well-being and dignity. We are developing a range of small-to-large scale physical interventions that respond to the individual needs of shelters. Our products prioritize low-cost, easy-to-maintain solutions that take into consideration the concerns of both shelter administrators and residents. Some of these concerns include: durability, safety, and that products are easy-to-clean while maintaining line-of-sight during the overdose epidemic. Our design products can ultimately be installed following an evaluation of a shelter through our auditing tool, or installed on their own in an existing shelter.
Our designs are made with lightweight materials that can be shipped easily and at low-cost. Costs will additionally be kept low by retrofitting existing furniture in the shelter, using low-cost and highly-durable materials such as corrugated plastic and antimicrobial fabrics. We anticipate that the reduction in overall costs attributable to improved mental health and well-being will be substantially greater than the one-time installation costs of our products.
There are several challenges we have identified and addressed in our designs. First, given the shortage of shelter beds in many cities, including San Francisco, closing shelters for prolonged periods of construction would displace and harm many who rely on them. Furthermore, due to this shortage of beds, we cannot reduce the number of available beds in existing shelters as a consequence of our products taking up additional space. A third challenge is that shelters do not have uniform furniture; the beds for instance vary in types of frame (wooden vs metal), size, and height.
Our designs take these challenges into account. They are designed so that all products can be implemented incrementally, easily, and quickly without interfering with shelter operation. Bed modifications are designed to adapt to many bed frame models (including single versus bunk). And finally, products can be directly installed on existing bed frames so that the available number of beds in shelters is not reduced.
In the setting of the COVID-19 pandemic, which underscored the urgency for additional physical separations in shelter sleeping areas, we focused on design interventions that would create separations between individual beds in order to protect health while promoting privacy, dignity, and safety. We gathered available ethnographic data, supplemented by our own observations from tours of existing shelters, in order to produce initial designs for potential bed modifications. We have begun to gather feedback on these designs through virtual interviews with shelter operators and individuals who have firsthand experience sleeping in shelters in order to include their perspectives and evolve our designs. We are beginning to prototype full-scale versions and will update this page as the process continues.