Nest is an emergency shelter designed for homeless individuals in Los Angeles County that reunite them with family and empowers them to overcome the crisis of the past.
There are over 35,000 homeless people and over 25,000 of them are unsheltered. Homelessness is everywhere in LA. We are all humans, the same at a core level. As a society, we need to do something for the homeless.
I was blessed with the chance to design a temporary shelter for the City of LA Pilot Program, to create transitional housing to help the homeless readjust to society with my fellow designer Andres Zavala who shares a passion for using his talents for others.
How can we give opportunities for our homeless peers to get back on their feet again?
Homelessness in Los Angeles
There are over 35,000 homeless peers in Los Angeles. That’s more people without housing than the total number of new units built in downtown LA in the past 20 years.
But even more surprisingly, over 25,000 of them are unsheltered. That's enough to fill the StubHub center.
We all have the passion but not the knowledge to help
Though some of us already had experience in helping the homeless, we thought we should treat this project as a new experience and start off on equal footing.
We served and met hidden heroes of our time who were already forging forward new paths of helping the Angeleno homeless.
The Star Apartments Tour
The more we looked for people to glean inspiration from, the more we realized how many people were already taking the path of helping the homeless through design.
Tim and Jennifer from Michael Maltzan Architecture and Skid Row Housing Trust shared their story about how The Star Apartments, the permanent supportive housing, came to be.
Piece by Piece Mosaic Workshop
Piece by Piece is an organization that encourages the homeless to create art through mosaic and they would sell the pieces to keep the organizations going. We individually participated in an art piece ourselves.
Skid Row Tour
We were fortunate to have Danny Park, the founder of Skid Row Coffee share with us his experience of growing up in the Skid Row.
We got to hear how he got to start the Skid Row Coffee franchise and it was truly inspiring to hear somebody that had been on the other side who knows about homeless people and their true needs. His was a story on a seized opportunity to get back up as a human being.
Serving at Downtown Women's Center
The journey of visiting and talking to volunteers was truly amazing. We thought we should take another level of this process by volunteering to make a nice lunch for the homeless at the Downtown Women's Center. It was an opportunity that enabled us to truly interact with the homeless and get a read on their emotional energy.
Giving an Attention
One of the key points that we observed while touring Skid Row with Danny, was that there is a lack of attention and opportunities given towards homeless people. Supplying them with hope plays an important role in giving motivation to them.
Pride of Home
The design philosophy of The Star Apartments places importance on pride because the residents would gain self-confidence by living there. Plus, the elevation of where they are compared to the street provides an important emotional impact too.
The Star Apartments do not only provide a residence but also means to different activities, such as a music room, a workout area, and even though the making of mosaic art. Activities like these not only enhance interaction skills but act as therapy.
Exchanging their experiences of pain and hardship help people to sympathize with each other. It not only is a conversational sharing experience but also a healing time for them.
Although we can't truly understand the full extent of the difficulties the homeless face while they are sleeping in the street, we did one exercise that would give us some emotional ability to better understand the difficulties they face. The $100 dwelling challenge. And we only spent $11.99.
Their needs were our exact needs
With a $100 budget and with the time limit, it was difficult to make a perfect shelter for ourselves to sleep outside. But because it wasn't perfect we got to understand that the needs we noted during the challenge match with the needs of the homeless when we talked to them at the Downtown Women's Center.
Our goals for constructed structures was to use materials that we can easily find from home improvement retailers and easy to build (stack).
Security and Privacy - Louvers & Sliding Door
Security and privacy are obvious but important design features. These are features that most homeless people need and want.
Shared Experience - Dual Parking for Cart & Bike & Use of Plywood
For the bike or grocery cart owners, we created dual parking for both bike and cart. Also, restrooms will be constructed between units. For people who are moving in, we made our interior plywood that can be easily taken apart to switch from old to new for a fresh start.
Energy Supply - Solar Panel & Power
Using LA’s weather to our advantage, adding solar panels would provide the amount of energy needed to light their home and to charge their phone throughout the night. Also, insulation using foam material keeps it warm when the outside is cold, and cool when the outside is hot.
Storage and Space - Extra Space
A storage area and space for them to be free and organize their personal things. A homey place where they can be themselves and be comfortable.
Concept to Execution
While Andres and I were a team we came up with this concept, and in the following term we mixed it up with the teams to make our 3 main projects come to life. Andres's friend, Zack Eeisenberg joined our team to make our concept into a real-life house. We were all super glad we could make this within $1800 and from a material that we can easily buy from Home Depot.