Emergency shelter for homeless men

Material Information

Emergency shelter for homeless men
Liptack, Glenn M
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
V, 105 leaves : illustrations (3 color) ; 29 cm


Subjects / Keywords:
Homelessness -- United States ( lcsh )
Shelters for the homeless -- Designs and plans -- Colorado -- Denver ( lcsh )
Homelessness ( fast )
Shelters for the homeless ( fast )
Colorado -- Denver ( fast )
United States ( fast )
Designs and plans. ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )
Designs and plans ( fast )


Includes bibliographical references.
General Note:
Submitted in partial filfillment of the requirements for thesis research and programming, Master of Architecture, College of Architecture and Planning.
General Note:
Title page is missing; title from caption, p. I.
Statement of Responsibility:
Glenn M. Liptack.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
28440482 ( OCLC )
LD1190.A72 1992m .L56 ( lcc )

Full Text
This thesis for the Master of Architecture
degree by
Glenn M. Liptack
has been approved for the
Department of Architecture
Faculty Advisor
/C- / ^2^

Liptack, Glenn M.
Emergency Shelter For Homeless Men
Thesis directed by John Prosser and Virginia Grote
It is believed that the questions of who the homeless are and what
their needs are will provide the foundation for developing a programmatic
and architectural response to designing an emergency shelter for the
homeless which is intended to challenge the large institutional facilities
that are considered, by many, to be models of contemporary homeless
shelter design. The answers to these questions will suggest that the shelter
in question would be a small, non-institutional facility; one with a
residential character, that is to be an integral part of a three tier system
of sheltering the homeless. It should begin a process of taking the
concentration of homeless shelters and services out of the blighted,
industrial inner city of Denver and relocating them into residential
neighborhood settings as a means of de-institutionalizing the homeless
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis.
.faculty Advisor

"Success is not measured by what you are. Success is
measured by what you are as compared to what you can be."
- sign at Step 13 shelter
This project is dedicated to John DeLong and Dr. Soontorn
Boonyatikarn, whose faith and confidence in me has inspired me and
taught me that it is possible for me to go farther than I have ever
dreamed. It was your conviction in my abilities and your persuasion not
to give up my aspirations that has made this project a reality. For this,
I will be forever grateful.

The author would like to acknowledge the efforts, help and
encouragement provided by the Colorado Coalition For the Homeless, the
Salvation Army shelter and Mr. Charles Mckinivan; the Samaritan House
shelter and Mr. Robert Sassetti; the St. Francis Center and the Reverend
Bert Womack; the Step 13 Shelter and Mr. Robert Cote and to Mr. Blake
Chambliss for all of their help in educating me about the homeless; my
faculty advisors for their time and knowledge, especially to John Prosser
for making a tremendous difference in the outcome of this project; and to
Rebecca for all of your support and patience through it all.

Illustration A Floor Plans - Pine Street Inn 56
Illustration B Floor Plans - Samaritan House 58
Illustration C Floor Plans - St. Vincent DePaul 61
Thesis Design
Floor plans 82
Building sections 85
Elevations 87
Model Photographs 89

The needs of the homeless 26
Searching for shelter 33
Service provider and shelter needs 38
Emergency shelter 42
Roadblocks to shelter 44
The site H
The shelter 74
The program 80

The issue of homelessness in America is not new but rather a
problem which since the early 1980s has exploded as a national epidemic
and settled into the heart of Americas collective conscience.1 There is
a growing sense of urgency among the public that this situation will only
worsen if attention to the problem and its causes are not addressed
immediately. If it is not addressed now then surely we will be forced to
face it at a later time and at a greater public expense.2
Homelessness has been called a massive epidemic, a national
epidemic, a national emergency, an important problem, and a major
social crisis, but regardless of the name that we give it, one thing must be
addressed and that is that the problem is real, that it will not go away, and
cannot be addressed only at the symptomatic level. It must be addressed
both on humanitarian and moral grounds as well as on practical grounds.3
Ignoring the issue or pretending that it does not exist will not alter the
basic issue, which is the predicament that hundreds of thousands of people
no longer find themselves with a regular place to live. Today we are

witnesses to the most severe housing crisis since the Depression.4 It
was, shortly after that period, in response to the post war housing crisis of
the late 1940s, that the Truman Administration enacted the Federal
Governments pledge of "decent housing for every American." This act
served to provide for large scale slum clearance and for the building of
desirable, low-rent public housing and to alleviate the post war housing
crisis that was directly related to demobilized veterans returning from
Europe and the South Pacific.5
It is the case today that there is usually no simple reason for an
individuals becoming homeless; rather, homelessness is often the final
stage in a lifelong series of crises and missed opportunities; the
culmination of a gradual disengagement from supportive relationships and
institutions.6 For whatever reason, we see a diversity in the root causes
of homelessness which reflect the diversity of the entire homeless
population itself. The principal reasons for homelessness may range from
the loss of a job, compounded by the reduction of economic opportunities
in the community and directly tied to the structure of the employment
market, to a persons physical or mental disabilities, which in many
instances is tied to the loss of government subsidies and benefits, to

divorce, poverty, increases in the cost of housing and in general, the
unraveling of the safety net of social welfare programs.7 It wasnt until
the early 1980s that, in many communities, the apparent extent to which
the homeless problem had arisen was perceived. There were specific
changes that occurred at this time that were to be strong influences upon
this problem.
In Colorado, the Homeless Action Group (HAG), sponsored in
part by the office of the Mayor, City and County of Denver, in 1987, was
able to identify several specific reasons which have significantly
contributed to the problem of homelessness in this state. These causes
1) The lack of income or support to pay for housing,
2) The high cost of housing,
3) The loss of affordable housing through demolition or
4) Structural changes in the job market, rendering some
workers skills unwanted,
5) Deinstitutionalization of the chronically mentally ill
without community based mental health systems being
6) Domestic violence and abuse,
7) Alcohol and substance abuse,
8) Unique personal tragedies, and
9) Radical shifts in public policy regarding social services,
especially Federal cutbacks.8

One of the primary contributing factors to homelessness is a
characteristic displayed by many homeless individuals. A lack of income
affects those people who are unemployed and underemployed; those who
do work but only at the minimum wage or part-time. It also includes
individuals who cannot qualify to receive the benefit of public assistance.9
The late Mitch Snyder, director of the Center for Creative Non-Violence,
a homeless shelter in Washington, D.C., said that although "each homeless
person has a unique history which contributes to his or her own particular
circumstance, unemployment and the minimum wage are among the
biggest contributors across the country. If you make $3.50 an hour, and
if youre smart, youll go out and buy a relieve the pain and
anger you feel at a job that doesnt pay enough to afford any kind of
shelter or to live with any kind of dignity."10
Another contributing factor to the problem is the extremely high
cost of housing. For too many Americans, the gap between income and
the costs associated with housing has escalated beyond their reach. During
the decade of the seventies, for instance, rents grew about twice as fast as
income, although they have stabilized over the last few years.11

Directly related to this is the loss of affordable housing stock which
was experienced during the early 1980s. We have seen recently a
dramatic change in the Federal Governments commitment to providing
for and aiding public housing programs designed to assist those in need.
Formerly, our housing system would keep a portion of the housing stock,
that portion which is the least desirable, at the bottom of the economic
ladder, while those fortunate enough to do so, would move up into better
accommodations. This has changed in the last 10 years, however, as
gentrifiers and urban developers have successfully usurped these areas and
depleted many hundreds of thousands of low-income housing units across
the nation. This depletion of low-income housing, coupled with a growth
in the demand for this type of shelter, has invariably led to increases in
rent prices.12
In addition to the loss of housing units to urban development and
gentrification, there is also very little low-income housing being produced
through the private sector to replace that which has been lost. It is this
type of housing which is often the most urgently needed. Coupled with
the fact that this country loses nearly "100,000 privately owned low-income
units through abandonment, foreclosure, arson for profit, and

condominium conversions yearly," according to the National Low-Income
Housing Coalition,13 the relationship between the growth in the homeless
population and the decrease in available low-end housing becomes more
apparent. Advocates for the homeless have estimated that there may be
anywhere between 250,000 and 4 million homeless in America by the year
2003. According to the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation (NRC),
"unless some drastic steps are taken, 18.7 million could be homeless,
burdened with excessive rents or forced to live in slums" by that time.14
The NRC also predicts that "7.9 million more units of low-income housing
will be needed"15 by the turn of the century at a cost of nearly $300
Unfortunately, for many in the 1980s, the American dream of a
single family house became a dream deferred, as the downward sifting of
housing stopped due to a burst in demand.17 In Denver, as in many
cities, the housing situation has become a real problem. The last decade
has seen a rise in the demand for housing by post-war baby-boomers,
households headed by women, and single, young professionals. Denvers
attempts at urban renewal have only added to the problem. Denver lost
over 3,000 low-income housing units as a result of its redevelopment

efforts in the recent past. In some instances, housing units were lost due
to development projects which were either subsidized by the government
or facilitated by waivers of zoning requirements and other governmental
Changes in the structure of the U.S. economy have led to increased
poverty through the elimination of jobs and specific skills. The early
1980s saw a shift to a low-paying service based economy while many
positions in the manufacturing sector were sent overseas, or eliminated
altogether in favor of computer automation. Subsequently many
Americans found themselves out on the streets and in shelters only after
they failed in their efforts to find viable employment.19
Another causal factor of the homeless problem has been tied to the
deinstitutionalization of increasing numbers of chronically mentally ill
persons, partly as a result of the Federal Governments decreased support
of state and local medical care for this population. Mental illness alone
is not a cause of homelessness, but rather, it is the lack of adequate
mental health care provided within the community for these people, that
is an important reason why those patients released from mental health
hospitals often wind up on the streets.

The United States has also seen an apparent rise in domestic
violence and abuse cases which can directly lead to an increase in
homelessness as individuals are more willing to leave abusive relationships
and households. However, some questions exist as to whether there has
been an actual increase in abuse and violence or whether the tolerance for
such actions has diminished and more instances are being reported. In
either case, more victims of abuse, specifically women and children, are
ending up on the streets.20
The social problems of alcohol and drug abuse which pervade other
aspects of society are in no way diminished among the homeless
population. In fact, they often add to the problem by minimizing an
individuals potential of retaining employment, and their ability to pay for
housing. Many within the homeless population, regardless of the reason
for their being homeless, are also hindered by the problems caused by
substance abuse and may be clinically labeled dual diagnosed; a medical
term which refers to the diagnosis of substance abuse problems
compounded by mental illness.21

When dealing with the issue of homelessness, what matters most is,
not in debating the number of homeless persons but rather, accepting the
reality of their existence and asking what we as a nation are going to do
about it? The severity of the situation requires us to ponder the direction
from which responsibility will come. With an increase in homelessness
across this country, upon whose shoulders will accountability rest? Who
in particular is willing to accept the fate of this population, and what if
anything can be done? Everyone seems to have a scapegoat: advocates of
the homeless blame governmental policy, politicians blame the legal
system, the courts blame the bureaucratic infrastructure, the Democrats
blame the Republicans and the Republicans blame the Democrats. The
public blames the economy, drugs, the poverty cycle and the breakdown
of society. The last group to have the finger pointed at them is the
homeless themselves. Recent trends are focusing on placing some or
much of the blame upon those who, until recently, have been excluded
from carrying any responsibility at all for their own dilemma.22
There appears to be an ever increasing line in which to pass the
buck, according to Robert Hayes, of the National Coalition for the
Homeless. Hayes states that "the Federal Government would like to pin

most of the responsibility on state governments, people who dump mental
patients out of the hospitals without bringing resources into the
community. State governments say that homelessness is not a function of
pathology, and that is right. City governments will invariably find a state
government to blame for homelessness because of the presence of the
mentally ill, but they will also blame the Federal Government for
insufficient housing policies."23
All of these accusations have ultimately led to a decrease in
concern and caring for those members of society who have less than they
need. There appears to be some relationship between this growing
aversion for the homeless and the Reagan Administrations ensuing
redistribution of income upward.24 One of the prime factors for all of
this has resulted from shifts in political philosophy. Changes initiated by
the Reagan Administration have drastically affected the level of
involvement which the Federal Government feels it is currently
responsible for in terms of meeting the needs of the poor.25
Congressman Bruce Vento (D-Minn.) charges that "the Federal
Government has ignored its responsibility to house the homeless," citing
the Reagan Administrations preference of relying upon the efforts of

church groups, and private sector funding, along with volunteer labor
efforts to carry out most of the needed services. While the efforts of these
groups have been able to provide some level of service to the homeless,
they do not equal the benefits which would accompany a national policy
of aiding the poor and homeless.26
On the other hand it is also possible to understand the predicament
faced by the government. Years of combined social spending and defense
department allocations have left the Federal Government reaching far
beyond its means and reasonably hesitant to provide monies for new social
programs.27 Senator Slade Gorton (R-Wash.) warns "not to expect the
Federal Government to provide all of the funding and expertise that is
needed to solve this emergency. The simple fact is that fiscal policies have
strained the Federal Budget to the point that we are no longer able to
finance the housing and assistance programs we already have in place.
We simply cannot afford to support hefty new Federal efforts. The reality
is that private sector efforts are going to be imperative if we are going to
make headway against the problems of homelessness."28 In addition to
Gortons response, the Federal Task Force on Homelessness views

homelessness as a local problem that originates at the community level.
The focus of efforts to resolve it must be at the same level and that new
Federal programs are not the answer.29
As evidence to these claims, we see a dramatic shift in the
Governments allocation of funding for housing. There has been a drop
of more than 70 percent, from $30 billion per year to $7.3 billion in 1987.
In 1979, under then President Carter, the city of Seattle received almost
$40 million for low-income housing; in 1985 that total was $3 million.30
For the fiscal years 1983 through 1985, the U.S. Congress designated $280
million to be directed, through the Federal Emergency Management
Agency (FEMA), towards aiding the Homeless. Contrasting the aid
provided through FEMA is the effort made by the City of New York,
which, in 1985, committed $217 million to the homeless, and added and
additional $110 million more in 1986.31 Also under recent
administrations there has been a change in the requirements for housing
subsidies which required those with lower-incomes to allocate more of
their budgets towards housing costs. The Federal Government was able
to raise $6 billion in new revenues through the poor by raising the

percentage of income which they were required to pay for housing, from
25 percent to 30 percent, before their government subsidy contributions
On a local level, it is possible to find limited funding through the
state of Colorado. It has been suggested, by the Homeless Action Group
(HAG), that this situation reflects the misperception of the problem as
strictly a city one, that homelessness is a fundamental inner city problem
which does not exist outside of our urban centers. This perception may
arise from the fact that the majority of the homeless seek refuge in our
cities, and that the majority of services designed to meet the needs of this
population are focused here.33
Funding can be, and has in the past been, provided through
programs under the Colorado Division of Housing, for emergency shelters.
However, these funds too were cut during the fiscal years of 1986-87 from
a high of $1.9 million down to $390,000. Aid is also available at the
county level in Colorado. There exists a general assistance program which
may be used in an effort to provide emergency food and shelter.
However, of the states 61 counties, only 14 take part in this program.
Another draw-back to this program persists in the 6-month residency

requirement and the need to prove permanent residency, in order to
obtain assistance, which essentially eliminates all those who could benefit
from this funding.34
Throughout Colorado, in both its rural areas and urban centers, the
primary source of services, for the homeless, is provided through churches
and other not-for-profit agencies. In many cities, we see a response to the
problem of homelessness by these groups, who are shouldering the
majority of the burden of providing help for the poor. Raising funds,
wading through bureaucratic red-tape and countering community
resistance have been the primary obstacles which have faced providers of
social services. In Denver, the Homeless Action Group Implementation
Committee and the Denver Department of Social Services Homeless
Office have worked to identify needs, coordinate public and private sector
activities and implement administrative and policy changes needed to
serve the homeless.35 Funding, with a decrease in Federal aid, now must
come from the private sector, through the efforts of non-profit groups and
churches, social service providers, designers, mental health care providers

and those within the community with money, materials and time to donate.
Financial support may also be obtained through grants, private charitable
foundations and from below-market rate loans.36
One other causal factor linked to homelessness is tied to Denvers,
and other citys, restrictive zoning policies, which are often intended to
protect the interests of the haves at the expense of the have-nots.37
These policies severely limit the potential construction and operation of
shelters, Single Room Occupancy Hotels, and other types of low-income
All of this has invariably led to a lack of facilities and services in
relationship to the scope of the problem. According to the Chicago
Coalition for the Homeless, "what is needed are more shelters that are
accessible, warm, soft, and treat people with dignity."38 Although there
has been an increase in the number of shelters operating across the
country, the problem lies in the correlation between the number of
shelters and the increasing number of homeless persons; even in those
shelters which are considered to be the most wretched. Far too many
homeless are collected in gymnasiums, armories, and church basements for
a nights sleep in spaces jammed with cots, only to be returned to the

streets in the morning to wander in search of warmth, food, or a public
bathroom until evening comes again.39 From 1980 to 1984, there was an
increase of 66 percent in the number of new shelters reported by the
Department of Housing and Urban Development. Today the need for
shelters is still increasing, especially in the winter. The 1985 U.S.
Conference of Mayors reported that "overcrowded shelters routinely turn
away victims of homelessness in one-half of the cities surveyed."40
At this time, as we are faced with an upsurge in the need for low-
income housing and a decrease in the number of housing units available.
What appears today is that emergency shelters often end up playing the
role of permanent housing for the poor. When temporary, short term,
housing is used to replace permanent affordable housing, it is the
equivalent of placing a band-aid on a larger wound.41 These forms of
temporary shelter were never, or should never be, considered to replace
decent permanent housing.
The subject of homelessness today faces a problem of
misperception in the eyes of much of the American public. What has
resulted is a lack of understanding of what, where and who the homeless
really are. Frequently, public perception of the homeless leads to labeling

them, avoiding them or to the creation of zoning ordinances which
potentially limit or deny them the service facilities that they require. The
image of the homeless person, in many peoples mind, along with the
escalation and duration of the problem, has led to the publics blaming the
homeless for their own condition. Criticism has arisen around their
appearance, their actions and general conditions, which dont outwardly
appear to conform to a middle class lifestyle.42 It also perpetuates
stereotyping, through the catchall name homeless. To many people, this
includes not only the homeless but also AIDS victims, the mentally ill,
drug and alcohol abusers and street predators of all kinds.43 All of this
has, in effect, allowed society to deny its responsibility for the problem.
As a result, what has developed is a resistance on the part of communities
to support low-income housing or homeless shelters, through a response
known as NIMBY or Not In My Back-Yard.44 In such instances, a
community may fully believe in and support the provision of services for
the poor, so long as its not in their neighborhood.
Unfortunately, these actions have always taken place where and
when the homeless are concerned. In the past, resistance to the homeless
has frequently resulted in efforts to disperse them; from the first ship of

fools, to the more modern residency requirements for assistance, the
solution has relied, primarily, upon eliminating the problem rather than
addressing its root causes.45

The misperceptions of who the homeless are only emphasizes the
need to look at the people behind the faces, ragged clothes and
unconventional lifestyles, who congregate in alley-ways, abandoned
buildings, shelters and clinics in nearly every city in America. The
population we see today as homeless is very different from the homeless
populations of the past. Then, there were only bums, skid-row drunks
and derelicts who, if any attempt was made to help them, were given cots
in dreary shelters or missions reminiscent of a work camp, which was all
that society assumed they deserved.46 After WW II, the homeless
population was primarily composed of single, older white males, with
histories of drug and alcohol abuse.47
During the 1980s, a more contemporary picture was formed of the
homeless population which gave service providers a clearer objective of
how best to serve them (Dluhy 1986). The homeless population in
America could be assumed to:

1) Contain various sub-populations which need
different facilities and services; no single strategy
will work,
2) Not prefer the street to coming indoors; strategies
which facilitate street life should be avoided,
3) Need outreach programs to help them since many
will not voluntarily seek treatment; therefore
strategies which emphasize trust and rapport over
many months are preferred,
4) Need permanent placement under all
circumstances; short term strategies should be
integrated into a long term plan for the resolution
of the problem,
5) need community wide solutions; no single agency
or church should be expected to solve the problem
on their own.48
In painting this picture of the homeless, we see people who no
longer have a secure place to live, to sleep or to receive their mail.49
This population is often composed of vagrants who sleep on the ground
or in abandoned buildings, battered women and abused children. As many
as 25 percent are chronically mentally ill, who, after state funding was cut
back, were released into the community without the proper mental health
services or housing provided at this level to meet their needs. Some, who
have fallen through the cracks of the social service system, simply cannot
afford their own shelter.50 The U.S. Conference of Mayors, in 1985,
determined that "approximately 44 percent of the homeless are substance
abusers, five percent are estimated to have AIDS or HIV related illnesses,

about 46 percent are single men, of whom, 26 percent are Vietnam
veterans who have never fully adjusted to their return from service, 14
percent are single women, four percent unaccompanied youth, 51 percent
are black, 35 percent white and 14 percent are other ethnic groups,51
with an average age for all homeless persons of 34 years.52 Currently,
that segment of the homeless population which has the fastest growth rate
consists of families with children. They now compose one-third of the
homeless population.53 In Americas cities, one in four homeless persons
is a child.54
On a local level, in the city of Denver, statistics show that the
homeless population is composed primarily of single men who comprise
73 percent of the population. Sixty percent of Denvers homeless are
mentally ill, and single women account for 14 percent of the number of
homeless. Alcohol and other substance abuse is believed to affect another
41 percent, while vagrants and families account for 20 and 13 percent of
the problem respectively55
While is has been noted that the homeless are a diverse and
heterogeneous group, and that no typical homeless person exists, Dr.
Michael Vergare and Dr. Anthony Arce, Psychiatrists at the Albert

Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, believe that "in addition to its
demographic diversity, the homeless population varies significantly in
duration of homelessness." Their studies have found that there are three
separate sub-populations within the homeless community. The first
grouping consists of those persons who are chronically homeless or
homeless for periods beyond 30 consecutive days. They note that many
homeless persons have been in this situation for months or even years.56
Chronically homeless persons tend to suffer from physical and mental
disabilities or substance abuse problems.57 While many hard core
homeless are this way, they are not a majority of the chronically
homeless.58 Some mental health experts believe that up to 80 percent of
the homeless living on the streets have some kind of mental illness,
ranging from schizophrenia to severe personality disorders.59 Members
of this sub-population are often destitute. They are without adequate food
or shelter and literally eat garbage and sleep in the streets. They are
usually without family ties and have poor job histories and they are easily
victimized by unscrupulous merchants and marauding gangs of

The second sub-population consists of the episodic homeless.
These persons may tend to alternate for varying periods of time between
being domiciled and homeless with homelessness usually lasting less than
30 days.61 Often referred to as economically homeless, these people
typically are unemployed or do not have the finances to obtain shelter.62
In Colorado, this group is homeless for relatively short periods of time.
The majority (62 percent), are homeless for 90 days or less. Only 11
percent of the population, classified as economically homeless, are in that
situation for a year or more.63
According to Franklin James, Ph.D., Professor of Public Policy, in
the Graduate School of Public Affairs, at the University of Colorado at
Denver, in contrasting homeless population between 1988 and 1990, it is
possible to see a visible difference in how the problem is changing for the
worse. "In 1988, the typical homeless person in the state of Colorado was
homeless for the first time (56 percent), and had been homeless for a
comparatively short time. The median time a person had been homeless
was only three months."64 However, James found that in 1990, only two
years later, that "the typical (median) homeless person was in his/her
second spell of homelessness, and had been homeless seven months." This

change shows that "homeless appears to have become more persistent and
more entrenched in the state."65 Dr. James, in his analysis of the 1988
Report of the Governors Task Force On The Homeless suggests "that, of
these (groups), the single largest group of homeless in Colorado was the
economically homeless."66 The Homeless Action Group found in their
studies that Denver has an estimated 1320 to 1540 homeless persons who
could be considered economically homeless on the streets at any given
The last grouping that Doctors Vergare and Arce found was the
situationally homeless. They discovered that this population finds itself
displaced as the result of personal tragedies such as fires, natural disasters
or long term illness but usually find shelter very quickly.68
Determining an accurate count of the homeless population is very
inexact. Their numbers tend to fluctuate on a daily, seasonal and yearly
basis. Factors which affect the changing homeless population include the
local unemployment situation, availability of reasonable housing stock,
social services and seasonal weather changes.69 The homeless are all too
often invisible within the community. Many do no trust the government
or service providers and experience a social alienation in avoiding those

who are trying to help. In some instances, it is necessary for outreach
programs to be developed to search for and locate these service shy
* 70
The Homeless Action Group looked through court records,
evictions rates, records of unduplicated patients at the Stout Street Clinic
(a medical care facility for the impoverished and homeless in Denver) and
residents of Denver shelters who were not registered with another shelter
in the same period. What the HAG found was that Denver, Adams,
Arapahoe, Jefferson, and Douglas Counties deal with 1500 to 2900 person
who are homeless on any given day.71 The Colorado Coalition for the
Homeless placed the number of Colorado homeless between 5,000 and
6,000 as recently as 1987.72 Estimates for 1990 show an increase of 10
percent over the 1988 populations, and the number of homeless within the
Metro area increased by nine percent during the same period.73
The fact that the HAG suggests almost two-thirds of all homeless
persons in Colorado were found to be in the Denver Metro area in April
of 1990 is reflected in the statistics from Denver area centers which
provide services to the homeless (and reinforces the belief that the
homeless gather where the greatest number of services are located).

The St. Francis drop-in day center for the homeless reported an increase
of 50 new visitors per day in late 1986; requests for medical treatment by
new patients at the Stout St. Clinic increased to 300 each month, and the
food line at the Volunteers of America mission served 450 new guests
during the last quarter of 1986.74
Needs of the Homeless
The diversity of the homeless population is the foundation for the
approach of designing services for them. With the escalating problem we
face today, programs and services must proportionally reflect the
seriousness that this situation warrants. Efforts to help the homeless must
be tailored to their specific needs while also dealing with restricted sources
of support.75 No matter what the causes of homelessness may be, for any
given individual, once the threshold is crossed, it is often the beginning of
a nightmarish quest for shelter.76 Every effort should be made to help
those who do not wish to be on the streets. Those who do not wish to
accept the services offered, on the other hand, have every right to be left
alone, when they pose no risk to themselves or others.77

Karen Strauch Brown and Phillip Fellin, studying the chronically
mentally ill in community shelters, found that:
there is a limit to how long persons can remain
homeless. After months of drifting back and fourth
between the streets, homeless persons begin to
physically and psychologically create a home for
themselves. This homemaking behavior involved
staking out places to sleep, places to obtain food and
to eat, places to clean up and change clothes, and
places to relax and meet a friend or acquaintance.
People would leave their homes and go to work,
whether the activity was finding articles to recycle or
to sell blood plasma. They would talk about their
neighborhood and their neighbors. In the face of
very limited options and great adversity, Brown and
Fellin witnessed people building structures around
themselves which are encompassed in the concept of
In order to tailor a programs services to meet the needs of the
homeless, it is important to understand exactly what those needs are.
Regardless of a shelters design, its services or the philosophy of the
organization operating it, emergency shelters provide the first line of
attack in a continuum of services. The most elementary needs from a
homeless persons point of view, according to George Hathaway, a resident
of the Center for Creative Non-Violence shelter in Washington, D.C.,
begin with shelter. Day and evening emergency shelters satisfy an interim
need for housing.79 Other immediate needs include "food, hygiene on a

24 hour basis (i.e. decent showers and washing facilities), material
distribution clothes, shoes, etc., medical and mental health advice, a
library with reading materials, with newspapers being of special
importance, bulletin boards or other appropriate places for the sharing of
information, spaces for socializing and quiet places".80 In addition, many
homeless persons are in need of activities to occupy their time,
transportation services, and simultaneous or subsequent provisions for
support services. These may include, but are not limited to marriage
counseling, housing assistance and placement, child care, financial
management counseling, savings, budgeting, etc.,81 job training and
placement, substance abuse programs, and educational programs. These
are "essential if homelessness and a marginal existence are not to become
sustained characteristics" for this population, according to the Governors
Task Force On The Homeless.82
Across America, there are a growing number of communities which
are responding to these needs in the homeless community. For those in
Denver who are homeless, there is a real need for emergency shelter. The
HAC reported that the city of Denver could fill 1500 emergency shelter

beds. This situation, in Denver, sharply contrasts the national statistics
which show that 22 percent of the homeless are unable to obtain
emergency shelter.83
The necessity for day-time shelters is supported by the homeless
populations need to get in out of the cold or for a place to hang out.
These shelters provide the most essential needs for the homeless on a day-
to-day basis, when most evening facilities close down and force the
homeless back onto the streets again until evening. Aside from a bed and
a roof over ones head, the homeless persons need for a day-time center
is of great importance. These operations often take the responsibility
away from merchants and public libraries, who more often than not
inadvertently become the principal day shelter providers in urban areas.84
Homeless day-time centers are often equipped to provide showers, mail
and message services, temporary storage of personal effects and a sense
of community. Denver has two day-time centers for the homeless which
serve in excess of 500 persons per day. There is, however, a need to serve
an additional 50 percent more, on a daily basis.85

Even when shelter availability is adequate, there are often
inadequacies in the availability of support services within them. Social
services such as job placement and training, mental health and substance
abuse counseling, child care and medical attention should be targeted to
the unique sub-populations through the shelter system. Frequently, the
most service shy homeless must be sought out and informed of the
programs available to them. It is often the mentally ill and young
runaways who feel threatened and are isolated from shelters and those
agencies which aid the homeless.86 In many cases these groups may be
enticed into low profile, non-institutional drop-in centers, which provide
informal contact with agencies offering help and in turn, provide an
opportunity to develop a sense of trust among the homeless community.
Of special concern to service providers is medical care. The
homeless population, on average, is more susceptible to serious medical
problems.87 Their medical care is usually obtained in the emergency
room of the nearest public hospital, and then only when serious medical
attention is required. Among the most frequently diagnosed medical
problems suffered by the homeless are: respiratory diseases such as
pneumonia, tuberculosis, and bronchitis, many psychiatric disabilities,

exposure, malnutrition, alcoholism, lice, scabies, frost bite, hypothermia,
vascular disease, cardiac disorders, and physical trauma. In comparison
to the general public, the homeless tend to be in poorer overall health
resulting from stress, poor nutrition and the constant exposure to the
Providing medical care to the homeless often requires alternate
solutions. In many cases, medical care is brought to them through the
shelter systems. Health care personnel attempt to make routine scheduled
visits to shelters within a specific area.89 In other instances, medical care
is provided through the local public hospitals when they are in close
proximity to the homeless population. This is the case for providing
medical care in the central Denver area. There is a model program
offered at the Stout street Clinic, which provides complete medical
services for the impoverished and homeless, in an area of town which
supports many social service programs.90 Denvers Samaritan House
Shelter, on the other hand, utilizes a variation on the mobile medical
approach to health care. This situation, is more of a band-aid and aspirin
approach to medical care, as the Stout Street Clinic is much better
equipped to handle the more severe medical situations. The Clinic, which

is less than four blocks away from the Samaritan House, makes the
duplication of equipment and medical personnel at two locations
unnecessary. The services provided at Samaritan House do, however,
provide the homeless with some degree of attention, for those individuals
who, otherwise, would receive very little contact with someone willing to
hear about their problems.
The next essential service of which the homeless are in need
focuses upon employment services. Pre-employment counseling, job
readiness, training, retraining, job search and development programs are
to be targeted to the homeless. These programs succeed more often when
they are coordinated through the shelters. In conjunction with
employment services, the homeless require access to available day labor
pools, along with temporary and permanent employment positions.91
There are 13 employment service agencies in Denver with programs
which could benefit the estimated 50 percent of the economically
disadvantaged homeless individuals in need of employment.92
Unfortunately, these and many other employment programs are
unprepared to handle the needs of the homeless. Long term employment
for the homeless may be hampered by the intricacies surrounding the self-

esteem problems of the homeless. As with medical care, employment
outreach programs provided through the shelters may benefit the homeless
by making those situations available more accessible and functional.93
Providing employment opportunities is one portion of the total
effort required to enable the homeless to become self-sufficient.
Physically accessing the available job market is an important factor.94
There are programs which utilize free or discount public transportation
tokens which enable the homeless to attend job interviews and report to
work on a regular basis. This type of program is often utilized in
obtaining medical care and reaching social service centers when they are
not in close proximity to the shelters. In many instances, however, this
type of program is subjected to decreasing financial support which
subsequently limits the employment potential of many of the homeless.95
Searching For Shelter
The majority of shelters serving the homeless attempt to provide an
atmosphere of safe, dignified respite from inclement weather and the
danger of the streets.96 Those shelters which are the most successful in
creating this type of environment are generally operated privately, in the

altruistic traditions of rescue missions and churches during the
Depression.97 In many instances, these shelters may house in excess of
350 person per night. There are shelters in larger cities which
accommodate 1000 individuals under one roof. Exactly how large a
shelter should be has become a point of contention. There are opposing
points of view which argue whether or not 200 to 300 guests in one facility
may be acceptable if those served are to be personally attended to, treated
as individuals and with dignity, and be capable of respecting each
homeless persons need for privacy, clothing, a warm place to sleep and
clean bathroom facilities.98 The most common type of emergency shelter
operates on a nightly basis, providing either a bed or a mat on the floor.
Accommodations are typically offered for the night on a first come-first
served basis or through a lottery system when beds are available but the
demand exceeds the supply.
Frequently, due to zoning restrictions, shelters are relegated to
depressed urban areas.99 The result is that most shelters are located in
older structures whose only useful attributes are four walls and
(sometimes) a roof.100 Armories, church basements, school buildings,

and any vacant building can be turned into an emergency shelter.101
One repercussion of this fact is that only a very limited number of shelters
have ever been designed and built from the ground up.102
The population being served, and the duration of their stay, are the
determining factors in the design and layout of facilities for the
homeless.103 However, lacking a similar type housing model to study,
the design community often looks to hospital design, military barracks,
dormitories and Single Room Occupance hotels for methods in which to
approach this problem.104 Too often, security requirements lead to the
development of large, open dormitory spaces for the shelter of single men
and women. Architect Mark McCormick, principal designer of the
Samaritan House Shelter, in Denver, suggests that "the design of military
barracks reinforces a sense of order, and maximizes light and
There is a three-tier approach recommended in approaching the
issue of sheltering the homeless. The first of which is emergency shelter.
Emergency shelters are intended to offer short term sanctuary to the
homeless with little asked for in return. They often provide minimal
sleeping accommodations, food, hygiene and support services varying from

one day to several weeks. In Colorado, many emergency shelters are
flexible when it comes to placing limits on the use of their facilities in
order to develop transitional periods of development within the shelter
Both the day and evening emergency type shelters usually attempt
to offer these basic services in less threatening and flexible environments
and allow for the development of relationships with service providers.
This becomes critical when attempting to reach service shy members of
the community. These facilities provide the homeless with opportunities
that are often available to the non-homeless through families, homesteads,
church halls, taverns, neighborhoods, restaurants, stores, libraries, etc.107
As the homeless gather at these facilities, they are able to exchange
information and develop familiarity and trust with one another and the
. 1 AO
service community.
The second tier of shelter provides for transitional housing, during
that period between emergency housing and acquiring permanent, long
term shelter. This stage typically lasts between three and six months.109
During this phase, sub-populations should be separated in order to
specialize more intensive programmatic services. Efforts can be made, for

the homeless, to develop self-responsibility in order to acquire more
permanent housing which is the third tier of shelter. It is important that
services are continually provided in this process to compliment long-term
living arrangements.110
Long-term housing may best be provided for many homeless
individuals through the reintroduction of the Single Room Occupancy
(SRO) hotel. SROs, in the past, have offered low-cost housing for people
unable to afford an apartment or who feel that an SRO more closely
meets their individual needs.111 SROs traditionally offer communal
living arrangements along with private bedrooms. Kitchens, bathrooms
and other living spaces are jointly shared, yet some measure of
individuality and privacy are accorded the resident.
Emergency shelters then represent an important step in what
should be a continuum of services for the homeless, providing families and
individuals with the necessary services to achieve independence and self-
sufficiency. It must be remembered, nonetheless, that while they provide
shelter, food, clothing and support, they are not intended to be permanent
solutions.112 It is unfortunate that, due to the lack of funding and
support in certain instances, many homeless persons are relegated to these

costly emergency settings indefinitely113 as they are cheaper and easier
to run than transitional shelters or new housing programs.114 This
recycling of individuals through the system drains what in effect has an
already limited financial support base. The ideal is to develop a stepped
approach in order to attain long-term stability, as opposed to simply
sheltering the homeless in a revolving door system.
Emergency shelters will be necessary in Denver "in the foreseeable
future, until additional units of transitional and long-term housing can be
provided", according to the Homeless Action Group.115 These facilities
"provide the foundation upon which transitional programs build. Take
away the foundation and the transitional efforts will crumble."116
Service Provider and Shelter Needs
With a growth in the development of homeless shelters, issues have
arisen regarding the appropriate size of facilities, levels of service, the
amount of space and the degree of privacy that society can provide for
free.117 These questions reflect the interests of service providers and
their managers.

Of concern to Blake Chambliss, FAIA, architect and advocate for
the homeless, is that "well intended efforts to shelter the homeless,
especially on an emergency basis, will become less, rather than more,
humane, by creating new institutions for the poor and mentally
handicapped."118 Operators and administrators run the risk of
"institutionalizing the poorhouse all over again. Until a consensus is
reached between the public and private sectors as to the form and
financing of housing for the homeless,"119 Chambliss warns that "maybe
what we will do is make these (emergency shelters) nice enough that they
will become the accepted standard, long-term, housing for the poor."120
Institutionalizing the homeless is perhaps the greatest issue facing
service providers. Warehousing 300 or more people in a shelter degrades
the concerns of hygiene, security and dignity in these settings. This in
effect amounts to decreasing our standards in terms of what is acceptable
in order to meet the Federal governments 1949 commitment to
concerning decent living conditions for everyone.
In approaching the design of emergency shelters, stressing the
importance of avoiding the institutionalization of the homeless continually
appears in published literature. Wendy Naidich, program director for the

Covenant House shelter, in New York City, stresses the belief in "creating
and maintaining a clean, colorful, non-institutional and non-threatening
physical environment."121 Designers of shelters often emphasize the
importance of non-institutional, residential settings, when describing their
design intentions.122 In such cases, attempts should be made to design
smaller spaces in hopes of fostering interpersonal bonding and simulating
family environments.123 Sandra Brawders, executive director for The
House of Ruth, in Washington, D.C., suggests that "smaller environments
are the way to go."124 Smaller areas thereby promote privacy, provided
that security issues are not overlooked. This breakdown into manageable
units needs to carry through the entire design. It is recommended that
each sub-population have its own separate facility, although this is rarely
the case. Bob Cote, director of Step 13, a transitional shelter for alcohol
and substance abusers, suggests that there is comfort to be found in being
in association with similar people; those with related histories and
problems.125 This concept places the focus of the design of the shelter
on the client type, as opposed to the building type.126

For those who operate facilities, operational needs are obviously
different from those for whom it is intended to serve. It should be
assumed that the facility will operate on a functional as well as aesthetic
basis, for the building itself becomes less important than its contribution
to the understanding and solutions of the larger social problem.127 In
most cases, shelters are spartan, owing to the concern that the homeless
will become too attached to a facility that is "too comfortable, or too nice",
and will be reluctant to leave, this, according to Randy Baily, the assistant
director of the Pine Street Inn in Boston.128
Issues of concern for service providers focus more on operational
and functional considerations. Robert Beggan, the senior vice-president
of the United Way of America, makes the following recommendations for
homeless facilities; he states:
Give me shelter that is safe, one with a kitchen designed so
lines can be fast moving and one with an atmosphere more
like a cafeteria than a soup line. Give me dormitory space
with a central monitoring station much like a hospital
intensive care unit, with partitioned, comfortable bed space
off in each corner. For safety as well as appearance, dont
give me double-tiered bedding, give me storage space, plus
a small room that can be converted to a barber shop. Give
me showers with individual stalls, large tiles, extra heavy
fixtures, and wheelchair acceptance. Give me a separate
storage room for clothes. Give me small administrative
spaces with open space dividers and social workers offices

that are small, warm, yet authoritarian but with a door out
behind the desk in case a client flys off. Give me separate
restrooms for volunteers, as the first time your best
volunteer is infected with lice or scabies its good-bye
forever. Give me bright colors, plain concrete walls that are
easily repaintable and non-destructible. And give me
windows, a building surrounded by 10 feet of grass and
trees, and parking for staff and volunteers. Give me an
architect who has thought about crowd control, an architect
who understands psychiatric design and is sensitive to the
importance of rounded beds.129
There is a need for selecting materials and furniture for shelters
with the right balance of homeliness and indestructibility. Carpeting is
rarely used as it is too difficult to clean and disinfect.130 It is also not
recommended to supply counseling to an individual, and then place them
in a dark and dusky room. Architect Mark McCormick suggests that
designers "think in terms of art, as a well designed building can help
rebuild the self image of its users by communicating a positive identity to
them and be a positive contribution to the neighborhood."131
Emergency Shelter
It is the recommendation of the Homeless Action Committee, that
in the city of Denver, there should be a development of 200 additional
emergency shelter beds.132 Presently, there are 754 emergency shelter

beds in Denver, of which 100 are allotted specifically for the economically
disadvantaged homeless.133 The existence of homeless shelters may be
an abomination in theory, but many are in fact as well.134 The
perception of facilities for the homeless often conjures up the stereotyped
images of squalid welfare hotels, decrepit flophouses or endless cots lining
armory drill floors.135 Ellen Baxter and Kim Hopper, of the Community
Service Society, in New York City, describe the often horrific experience
that awaits many homeless, who look to shelters as a safe haven from the
streets where often "the frightening scale and Dickensian conditions of
public emergency shelters effectively exclude those most in need of a
protective setting"136 as the homeless tend to be keenly sensitive to the
merest trace of danger in their surroundings. Any trepidation on their
part, involving safety and privacy, may be heightened by the dirt,
degradation and debasement that have at times accompanied the offer of
relief in many public shelters.137 Studies in New York have shown that
for those homeless individuals on the streets more than two years, one-half
have been positively tested for tuberculosis; instances of theft have forced

guests in shelters to wedge their shoes under the legs of their cots, so they
wont be stolen, and that the percentage of homeless women who have
been raped exceeds 30 percent.138
The condition of many shelters in destitute areas, frequently
violates the building codes, and the response to this situation has often
been to ignore the problem on the theory that even this type of shelter is
preferable to sleeping on the streets.139
Roadblocks to Shelter
"There are so many problems that are so awash in laws and regulation
that nothing gets done." - Donald McDonald, FALA140
There are obstacles to building for the homeless. Building codes
and restrictive zoning policies frequently hamper the development of new
facilities. The expense and difficulty imposed via some building codes, and
the segregation imposed through zoning are at times preeminent in
creating roadblocks for development.
The tradition of building and zoning codes represents a response
to insure that adequate standards are met, with respect to durability, to
prevent the development of unsanitary and unhealthy conditions, and to

protect against fire, collapse, and other hazards,141 and where possible
lead to the upgrading of general living conditions.142 They also come
under periodic review in order to insure that they respond to current
conditions. Building codes are responsible for the regulation of new
buildings and the substantial rehabilitation of existing ones. Code related
obstacles involve questions surrounding the standards of acceptability for
construction of low-income housing. The Housing Partnership
Development Corporations, Kathryn Wylde "points to bathroom and
kitchen size requirements: by the time you are done, youve lost the
economics." "As a result, the market can build shelter that by world wide
standards would be fantastic for low-income people. By American
standards it would be utterly intolerable" according to Kenneth Beirne,
General Assistant Secretary for Policy Development for HUD. William
Apgar, at the MIT/Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, believes "we
imagine we have enough money so everybody can live in good quality
housing. We set high standards for what we expect our public programs
to achieve and we produce very high cost housing that becomes more and
more like standard subdivision housing." Beirne suggests that "in reality,
the solution may be somewhere in between."143

Zoning regulations impact the development of homeless shelters in
a number of ways. First, facilities in Denver which are designated as
shelters for the homeless are not classified as use by right structures, but
rather as use by exception; which does not automatically permit groups
to create a homeless shelter without first obtaining zoning department
approval. Secondly, those zones, in Denver,in which an exception may be
granted (R-3, R-4, R-5, B-A-l, B-A-3, B-4, B-5, B-7, B-8, 1-0, 1-1, 1-2 and
0-1), comprise only 18 percent of all land in the city, and are generally
concentrated in the central area.144 Table A shows how zoning
restrictions have concentrated the majority of emergency shelter beds in
a limited geographic area of the city of Denver. Concentration of facilities
within a small geographic area, makes the homeless extremely visible.
This may lead to an increase in neighborhood opposition to such facilities
in other areas of the city and frequently creates a climate of confrontation
rather than cooperation among service providers and neighborhood
organizations in many areas of the city already affected by the

Table A146
Geographic Area Square Miles Population Emergencv Beds
Council Dist. 1 4.88 42,499 35
Council Dist. 2 10.43 49,876
Council Dist. 3 5.14 44,344
Council Dist. 4 8.28 45,038
Council Dist. 5 8.01 44,151 30
Council Dist. 6 6.25 44,700
Council Dist. 7 5.32 45,198
Council Dist. 8 5.16 41,726 409
Council Dist. 9 8.71 48,369 306
Council Dist. 10 2.67 45,262 80
Council Dist. 11 21.44 45,117 20
The need to deinstitutionalize the homeless may also be hampered
by present zoning conditions which often prevent the development of small
residential service facilities. The Homeless Action Group goes so far as
to recommend residential treatment settings with support services for each
sub-population, to be both programmatically and economically feasible,
and to combat the expense and experience of institutional
environments.147 In other instances, zoning regulations do not even
recognize the existence of emergency shelters as a type, or enumerate
occupancy classifications for such facilities. These conditions may lead to
extreme interpretations of the codes148 by "plan reviewers and all the
technocrats...responsible for seeing that plans conform"149 according to

Sam Galbreath, Director of Housing, Portland Development Commission.
One result, according to Mark McCormick, is that architects can become
involved in "lengthy and often frustrating attempts at negotiations with
building officials" in determining how a building is to conform with the
Finally, zoning codes tend to inhibit development through the
regulation of land uses, including lot size zoning, multiple building
prohibitions, floor area ratios, permissible numbers of dwelling units,
parking requirements and administration regulations all serve to slow or
prohibit the process of serving the needs of the homeless.151

The methodology of researching this project began by focusing on
the general problem of homelessness in the United States. This portion
of the study dealt with the general problem of homelessness; investigating
how and why the problem has escalated to its present condition, and what
methods are employed to deal with the emergency situation this nation is
faced with.
With the increase in the situation having occurred over just the last
decade, the majority of materials which have been published were found
in periodicals and advocacy group literature, as opposed to entire
publications dedicated to this subject. This finding suggested that the
theorem of out of site, out of mind may apply to literature on the
homeless situation as most documentation is directed to those members
of the service providing community, not to the general public.
Data was collected from state and local agencies and advocacy
groups commissioned to study the problem and report on the situation of
homelessness as it exists in Colorado and Denver. It became more

apparent as to who the homeless are, where they are and what is being
done presently to fulfill both their immediate and long term needs. Much
of the documentation also addressed those areas concerning what could
be done now that currently is not. This led to the conclusion that studying
the homeless was far too broad a topic to make generalizations. Sub-
populations composing the homeless community are too varied to make
broad sweeping assumptions or categorical classifications. Therefore the
scope of the project began to focus upon one particular sub-population
(economically homeless, single males) in order to concentrate subsequent
studies. This enabled the research coverage to center upon the needs of
this target group, the manner in which their needs are currently being
addressed and some potential methods of seeking responses and solutions
in the future.
Following this, the next step was to focus the research on areas
surrounding the issue of homelessness. These areas included looking at the
history of sheltering the homeless and comparing responses provided in
the past to present responses and discerning in which ways they were
similar or dissimilar. This study lead to the discovery of those types of
shelter which currently exist and why there is a need for emergency type

shelters. Figuring prominently in this discovery was the fact that the
development of shelters as a type is extremely new and very limited. The
majority of shelters have been developed through the renovation of
existing structures, making due with available facilities and limited funding.
Research revealed that there are only 2 major facilities which have been
designed and constructed from the ground up which limited the historical
precedents of designing new facilities. After this, the focus began to shift
away from the plight of the homeless. A hands on approach was taken at
this point to study more closely, the physical aspects of sheltering the
The city of Denver has several facilities which offer services to the
homeless and provide a working laboratory where it was possible to study
the homeless, their needs, and the setting in which efforts to help them are
currently presented. Research took the form of interviews and walk-
throughs of Denvers homeless care facilities. Interviews were conducted
with many of the directors and administrators of the facilities operating in
central Denver. Included in these interviews were Robert Cote, the
director of Step 13, an intermediate care facility which deals with alcohol
and substance abusing homeless individuals; the Reverend Bert Womack,

the director of the St. Francis Center, a day-time drop-in facility, in central
Denver, which often serves in excess of 500 individuals per day; Chuck
McKinivan, the director of Denvers Salvation Army service center and
shelter; Fr. Edward Judy, the director of The Samaritan House, an
emergency shelter providing respite to over 250 homeless individuals and
families operated by the Archdiocese of Denver, and Bob Sassetti, an
administrator with The Samaritan House shelter.
Each of these interviews included a tour of the facility and general
suggestions, recommendations and information pertaining to the operation
and history of the particular shelter. The greatest benefits were derived
from the experiences gained from visiting The Samaritan House. This
shelter was designed and constructed completely anew in 1986. Bob
Sassetti was instrumental in detailing much of the history and operations
of The Samaritan House. His input included relevant information
associated with the design and development of the facility, background on
the populations which it serves, how it attempts to serve these populations,
and the general operational needs of the shelter and its staff.

A tremendous educational experience was gained through the
opportunity of working at The Samaritan House on several occasions. This
provided an opportunity to experience a shelter first hand and to observe
that intangible information which could not be ascertained simply through
published material or interviews. Having the opportunity to meet the
homeless on an individual basis, as opposed to seeing them as a separate
sub-culture, was an occasion to see beyond the data and statistics, which
had until then only presented a two dimensional picture of the problem.
The architectural firm of Barker, Rinker, Seacat and Associates,
located in Denver, which designed The Samaritan House shelter, accorded
the opportunity of discussing with Russell Seacat, many aspects regarding
the background of the project and the experience of designing a facility for
the homeless from the architects standpoint. Unfortunately, Mark
McCormick, project architect, is no longer with the firm and could not be
contacted. Also interviewed at this time was Blake Chambliss, FAIA, an
architect and advocate of the homeless. Mr. Chambliss was responsible for
writing the Forward to The Search For Shelter, by Nora Richter Greer,
published by the AIA. (This book proved indispensable for understanding
the issue of homelessness and many of the needs faced by this population.)

All of this information was filtered and assembled to draw
conclusions regarding the current state of affairs of the homeless, potential
avenues of further study and development to meet their future needs.

There are probably three premier shelters for the homeless in the
United States today which, together, represent a cross section of the
typical homeless shelter, and as such are worth examining.
The first shelter which reflects the essence of its type is the Pine
Street Inn, in Boston, Massachusetts (Illustration A). This renovated
facility exemplifies the basic care shelter, which provides food, clothing,
clinical care, showers and beds. The objective of the Pine Street Inn is to
"ensure the survival of its guests, who other wise would be struggling or
dying on the streets" according to the shelter operators.152 This facility
is comprised of separate communal facilities for 300 single men and 50
single women, on two floors. It exists in a 70,000 square foot complex of
three warehouses and what was once the headquarters of the Boston Fire
Department. Located in what its operators describe as a light industrial
area in Bostons South End, the facility underwent restoration which
included changes to the buildings electrical and mechanical systems, due

Illustration A

to the age of the existing structure. In addition to this, the architects
exposed the structures beams and brick walls where possible and replaced
the existing windows.153
The second shelter facility is the Samaritan House, in Denver,
Colorado (Illustration B). This emergency shelter serves approximately
175 homeless single adults; men and women; and approximately 20
families.154 This facility is a 42,443 square-foot shelter which utilizes
bunk style bedding for the single adults on the first floor of the building.
Bunk beds being considered "an efficient and economical way of housing
large numbers of people"155 according to designer Mark McCormick,
who discovered "that the requisite open dormitory spaces for single men
and women on the ground floor could be based upon the design of
military barracks to reinforce a sense of order, and to maximize light and
ventilation."156 The design of the communal sleeping quarters was
intended to "foster interpersonal bonding and simulate a family
environment" within the shelter, as they are broken into smaller units.157
Individual family units are arranged on the third floor, with a
communal lounge. The basis for this is found in the SRO type hotel which
typically utilizes the concept of separate bedrooms and shared bathrooms

Illustration B

and kitchen facilities. Between the residential first and third floors is
where the designers located the public spaces. These include the dining
facilities, chapel, guest lounge and several staff offices. The second floor
also contains an outdoor patio which permits the shelters occupants access
to the outside while remaining within the facility, which closes its doors at
The owner of the facility, the Archdiocese of Denver, wished to
emphasize the need for a non-institutional environment.158 Their design
intent was to "promote an introspective character, protected from the
street."159 This did not, however, preclude the development from
encountering controversy. Denver City Zoning ordinances stipulate that
no exception, for the development of a homeless shelter, will be granted
unless "the proposed shelter for the homeless is located one thousand
(1000) feet from any existing shelter for the homeless." (Denver Code)
Samaritan House just happens to be located well within the one thousand
foot limit of several other facilities. To circumvent the zoning restriction
placed on the site, the facility was defined as an institutional building
rather than an emergency shelter. This allowance was possible because
the Samaritan House will allow guests to stay 30 to 60 days.160

The final prototype for shelter design that will be looked at here
is the 110,000 square-foot St. Vincent DePaul Center (Illustration C),
located on a full city block just outside of San Diego, California, whose
comprehensive program is designed to accommodate a diverse group of
350 individuals and provide food for some 700 to 800 more. This facility
was conceived as a direct response to the dilemma of San Diegos widely
spread out social service system, which in many instances forces individuals
to cross town for breakfast, and return back for lunch and the variety of
other support services which are located in many places in-between.161
The St. Vincent DePaul Center was conceived by Mark Bucon, a
young architect who spent several nights on the street in order to
comprehend firsthand the problems of homelessness. Bucon designed a
facility which "places the shelters activities around a meditative
colonnaded courtyard"162 with "covered walkways and luscious plantings,
a placed provide shelter from busy streets and the hostile
environment of theft, prostitution, drugs and alcohol. It is a quiet place
to think about what went wrong and what the next step will be."163 This

Illustration C

shelter, like many others, is intended to "convey a non-institutional
atmosphere -- a place of hospitality, a place that states every person who
enters has a self-worth that is unique and special."164
The first floor contains the communal areas. The reception area,
medical examination rooms, administrative and counseling services, along
with the dining area, chapel, educational and employment programs
provided for the residents are all located here. In addition to services
provided for the guests of the shelter, the center also provides showers and
restroom facilities for individuals off the street. The second and third
floors are divided into separate wings, for single men and women, battered
women, seniors and youths. Each wing then will have its own recreation
and quiet rooms with adjacent porches for those who smoke.165
By looking at these three facilities, several similarities and
differences are revealed which involve the issue of what shelters are, and
perhaps what they could be. All three facilities attempt to support in
excess of 250 individuals at one time, under one roof. This fact appears
to contradict the program philosophies of the shelter providers in terms
of their attempts to de-institutionalize the homeless. The St. Vincent
DePaul Center serves nearly 1000 meals per day. One of the greatest

problems of the homeless exists in their having to wait in line for nearly
every service available to them. As a result, waiting in line becomes a
constant source of tension, frustration and anger166 and simply collecting
that many individuals in one location can only promote the problem.
Each facility also attempts to serve very diverse populations. The
Pine Street Inn is "considered a wet shelter and will admit anyone
including alcoholics and the chronically mentally ill"167 according to the
operators. Samaritan house and St. Vincent DePaul both accommodate
homeless men, women and families under one roof. At the Samaritan
House, an attempt is made to separate the single adults on the first floor
from the families on the third. However, during meal times and check-in,
both singles and families intermingle with one another. It is regrettable
that children are exposed to the homeless experience, yet the situation is
only worsened by exposing them to individuals who may be mentally ill,
substance abusers or worse. This is, if not the primary reason for
separating the various sub-populations, near the top of the list of reasons
why there is a need to provide separate facilities for the homeless.

Both the Samaritan House and St. Vincent DePaul facilities are all
encompassing shelters. They each attempt to offer as many services as
possible under one roof. While the effort is to be commended, it appears
to only promote the institutionalization of the problem by accentuating the
conditions which make shelters the concern they are.
The architectural aspects of these shelters often follow many of the
programmatic shortcomings in denying the individual and his/her needs
beyond rudimentary shelter. Both Samaritan House and Pine Street offer
large dormitory environments as an efficient and economical way of
housing large numbers of people. At this point, the question should arise
as to which is more important; providing the service of shelter for the
greatest number of individuals or to provide a higher lever of service to
fewer people, in order to reinforce the importance of the individual and
thereby mitigate the institutional influences of shelter size? In contrast,
the St. Vincent DePaul Center takes an encouraging approach in its
method of housing. Here, the dormitory environment is relinquished in
favor of smaller units or rooms which sleep from four to six individuals.
Also, the fragmentation of space, into more humane, manageable units is
reinforced through the design of small separate lounge/television rooms

throughout the upper floors. The Samaritan House takes this approach
but only in that section of the facility designed to accommodate families.
There, each family is provided a level of individuality and privacy which
is not accorded the single men and women on the floors below.
Each of these facilities attempts to address the homeless situation
within a different type of facility. The Pine Street Inn utilizes a
rehabilitated structure to provide shelter. In most instances, shelter
providers in this situation must make do with the facilities they have, and
provide those services and amenities which the building can accommodate.
Both the Samaritan House and St. Vincent Depaul, which were both
designed and constructed at approximately the same time, and from the
ground up, offer similarities in style but different approaches to the
solution of shelter. One attempts to combine dormitory settings for
individuals and smaller individualized units for families. The other
attempts to put all individuals on similar ground through the
implementation of smaller, private rooms, housing no more than six
individuals. There is a minor difference between these two facilities. The
St. Vincent DePaul Center is classified as an interim facility, whereas the

Samaritan House is an emergency care facility which is instead classified
as an institutional facility. This difference is really only a matter of
semantics as they both programmatically attempt the same objectives.
Both shelters were designed around an outdoor court which in
comparison ended up quite different in terms of the space of that court.
While the St. Vincent DePaul court is large and spacious, the Samaritan
House court ended up a better idea than reality. The space is small and
only accessible through the staff area which, itself, is off limits to the
shelter guests. While it does permit light and some ventilation to the staff
control area and mens laundry area, the functional outdoor space is
located on the second floor deck outside the lounge area. Here, families
with children are allowed outside without leaving the shelter. Their time
is limited before relinquishing the deck to the single adults, who are
provided time to use the deck after 8 p.m. so that the families and singles
are not to intermingle if at all possible.

"If we cant do everything, we can do something and enough
somethings can make a difference." Blake Chambliss, FAIA168
But right now most people seem to prefer fighting over
ideological and economic purity to collaborating on a common
attack. 69
The issue of homelessness is a social problem, not an
architectural problem. Yet the response to housing the homeless has
become an arena for deliberation among architects who are being pressed
into service by increasing numbers of local community, religious, and
charitable organizations in search of small scale, humane solutions to the
makeshift warehousing of the homeless in cot-filled church basements,
armories and gymnasiums.170
As with the development of low-income housing, where, no one is
advocating the return to the development of large, isolated, anonymous,
public housing projects, the trend is toward smaller scale, community-
oriented projects.171 This ideology may also be applied to the
development of shelters for the homeless. However, contrary to the

beliefs of many advocates for the homeless, the solution to the homeless
problem does not simply lie in the development of "housing, housing,
housing!", as professed by Robert Hayes, founder and legal counsel, of the
National Coalition for the Homeless.172 This narrow-minded approach
in no way takes into account the causal factors of homelessness or the
needs of those individuals who find themselves without a permanent place
to live, but rather it depletes much needed resources from one area and
throws it at another.
It is true that the problems of the homeless are great, as is the
diversity of the sub-populations composing the entire community. In
addressing the needs of the homeless, it becomes imperative to see the
uniqueness of the individuals within the community and to develop
programs and facilities which focus upon their needs. The manner in
which this is done has in the past utilized models from outside the
homeless community. These models have been borrowed from institutions
which often have needs quite dissimilar from those of the homeless. In
applying solutions from one group to the next, problems occur which often
serve to inflame the condition of the homeless only more.

It is the intent of this thesis to challenge those models by
addressing the programmatic and architectural needs of the homeless. By
applying smaller, more humane and manageable units of space, we can
attempt to palliate the institutional effects of large impersonal shelters.
The association of sub-populations by design, provides the opportunity of
abating those pressures associated with large heterogeneous groupings.
With this project, an attempt will be made to accept the condition
of homelessness, while simultaneously offering a response that
individualizes the homeless population. By designing an emergency shelter
for less than 30 individuals it is expected that the effects of large
impersonal shelters can be diminished. What becomes of importance
then, is not the architecture itself specifically, but rather that contribution
which the architecture can provide to the understanding and presentation
of responses to the social problems facing this populace. In attempting to
design a shelter for the homeless, it will be necessary to first make
assumptions regarding the various sub-populations and chose one group
around whom an attempt will be made to develop a response, which
contributes to the betterment of the larger social problem of

homelessness. What is at issue then, is the reaction to the problem, not
as a solution to homelessness, but rather as an architectural response to
the needs that currently exist.

The second half of this thesis involves the design of an emergency
shelter for the homeless. This shelter is to address the needs of the
homeless in a small scale, non-institutional environment, in an area easily
accessible to homeless services, yet, one which begins to move services for
the homeless into new neighborhoods as opposed to isolating services and
facilities within the most unwanted and blighted areas of our cities.
This design is intended to challenge those large, impersonal
shelters, considered model designs for sheltering the homeless by bringing
small, personal, residential service facilities into community
neighborhoods. It is this designers belief that several small facilities,
spread out among the community, would alleviate the congestion, and
inhuman degradation found in many urban shelters. It is designed to
provide emergency accommodations for 26 single homeless men for a
period of 7 to 10 days along with services for individuals off the street. It
is the belief that an emergency shelter should not become a long term

solution to the need for shelter among the poor and homeless. Rather,
the time spent in an emergency shelter should be used constructively, as
part a three-tier system of housing which aids in promoting progress
towards the acquisition of stable, long term housing.
In response to these ideas, the design of this facility is intended to
break down the size and scope of other large all encompassing facilities
and to provide more intense and personalized care to a smaller number
of homeless individuals in one of many such facilities. Ultimately other
such shelters should be placed strategically within the city near those
services aimed at the homeless population, together, as part of a system
of emergency, intermediate and long term shelter. One such facility alone,
without the support and accompaniment of other emergency, intermediate
and long term facilities would be of no avail.
The Site
This project is situated on a 12,500 square foot lot, which currently
serves as a parking lot in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Denver on the
corner of Pearl Street and 16th Avenue. It is a site which allows adequate
access to public transportation routes, laundry facilities, food programs,

health care, and employment services aimed at the homeless community.
This site offers the opportunity to begin placing the homeless within the
center of a residential, community area.
The site is located on the South-East corner of 16th and Pearl
Street in an area which is zoned R-4. This zoning permits the
development of a shelter for the homeless as a use by exception with
zoning department approval. This corner lot provides the opportunity to
continue a strong urban wall along 16th Avenue by following a tight edge
as defined by three apartment buildings, the International Youth Hostel,
and the Uptown Events Center, formerly a church, at this intersection.
Therefore, the building sits tightly against the street on the North, and
West, only to pull back along the South-Western corner of the site. It is
along the South and South-Western edges which the building pulls back
and opens to the sun, allowing the opportunity for the development of the
inner and outer courts and a residential garden-like atmosphere.
Parking was a major concern from the start of this project. In
order to eliminate on-street parking and help to preserve the integrity of
the neighborhood, it was determined that below grade parking would
provide the best solution, while still leaving options open regarding the

buildings form and function. As shelters for the homeless are designated
as use-by-exception, and require zoning department approval, as previously
noted, there is no predetermined off street parking provision stating the
required number of necessary parking spaces. The local zoning
department stated that an exact number would be determined in the
process of zoning approval for such a facility. As such, the closest
approximate type of unit was chosen to provide a parking count. This
was determined by using Class 2 Off-Street Parking requirements as an
approximate match to what was thought to be the needs of a homeless
shelter. The zoning requirements for Class 2 call for the provision of one
parking space for each 600 square feet of space and this became an
arbitrary measure for providing off street parking. The final design
supports 19 cars to be parked in a one-level below grade parking area
which was to become a plinth for the remainder of the facility.
The Shelter
Entry to the 12,800 g.s.f. facility is permitted through a series of
steps which begin at the propertys edge. From a waiting area with a small
fountain, which serves as a point of arrival and departure for the facility,

one enters under the second floor terrace, around the South-Western
corner of the building up a handicap accessible ramp which leads through
the outer court towards the buildings entrance. Once under the covered
walk-way, the visitor begins to leave the street behind for a more peaceful
comfortable environment. Before the entry is reached, there is provided
small glimpses into the inner court through the southern court wall under
a trellis covered path to the front doors and entrance into the facility.
The first floor is associated with staff use and day-time use for
approximately 15-20 homeless individuals at any given time (in addition
to the residents). The initial sequence for this floor begins with an entry
lobby and reception desk. Here, guests check in and may leave personal
belongings to be stored for short and intermediate periods of time. It is
often difficult for the homeless to take everything they possess everywhere
they go and at all times.
As with any shelter, security is of prime importance, the
lobby/reception area serves as a screening area for those individuals who
may appear intoxicated or potentially disruptive to the operation of the
shelter once inside. The entrance area is flanked by service areas and
staff operation areas off-limits to shelter guests. These include the

reception desk, staff office and lounge, staff toilet, guest storage, receiving
and laundry facilities. In addition, the lobby provides access to the
shelters clothing distribution area which is among the top priorities in
terms of the needs of the homeless.
From this point, access into the building is controlled once a guest
is admitted. All first floor activities may be reached by through or around
the central court. Services for day-use, in addition to guest storage area,
include mens and womens toilet and shower facilities, day-room, reading
room, job search program which is to include telephones and typewriters,
a message center which serves as access control to the second floor,
counseling offices, and examination room for minor medical attention and
evaluation. It must be remembered that with the Stout Street Clinic
located so close, the duplication of medical equipment and personnel at
each shelter would be repetitive and unnecessary as was discovered
through time and experience at The Samaritan House shelter. Medical
referrals from visiting doctors and nurses at the shelter would be treated
at the Stout Street Clinic or Public Hospital as a priority.

Opening into the court is the day-use room. This space is designed
as a lounge, a place to relax, hang out and socialize, for the daily visitors.
It serves as the social center for the facility. Also provided here is a
message center where telephone messages and notes may be left for others
within the homeless community. Adjacent to the day-room, a reading
room is located which provides donated books, magazines and newspapers,
all within a smaller, quieter environment compared to the day-room
lounge. Also adjacent to the day-room is an employment search facility.
The purpose of this area is to provide employment opportunity
information, job notices, telephones and typewriters, public transportation
information and other information and tools necessary to aid in the search
for employment ranging from day-labor pools to permanent positions.
To the north of the message center/control desk are located the
counseling /exam rooms. Here intimate offices provide an opportunity for
dialogue between service providers, counselors, medical personnel, clergy
and the homeless. As with employment placement, it is critical that these
professionals routinely come into the shelter to provide their services.

Many shelters utilize a rotational system where by it becomes well known
within the homeless community on which days legal aid, social services
medical care/information and counseling are provided at the shelter.
It was the designers intention that the day-use facility was to
become the first step in breaking down the barriers between the homeless
and service providers. By providing a small, comfortable intimate setting
where those on the street can become familiar with the staff, volunteers
and service programs, the homeless will become comfortable and trusting
enough to partake in the second stage of this facility. This second stage
of operations in this thesis involves the first tier in the three tier process
of shelter. This emergency situation should not be allowed to drag on 30,
60 or 90 days. With this in mind, the program calls for seven to ten days
of detailed dialogue with counselors who can work with the homeless
individual to determine who that person is, where they have been and
hopefully where they need to go. This involves a process of screening and
separating the various subgroups within the homeless population. It would
be in the homeless individuals best interest to have available various

intermediate shelters which are equipped to deal with specific needs of a
particular homeless subpopulation in order to focus on major issues facing
For these purposes, the second floor is set up to allow this program
of communication and evaluation. This floor is the private zone within the
facility where residents live, sleep, eat and work with staff and visiting
personnel during the day. At night, the day-use areas are open for their
use as well. This area is broken down into two suites which accommodate
separate living, sleeping, toilet/shower/laundry areas. The living areas are
to be likened to a residential living room for those staying here. Group
discussions, lessons and relaxation are the principal uses for these areas.
Each suite then has its own toilet, shower and laundry areas, again
separate, to break down the size and scope of this type of living
arrangement.Linking these suites physically are staff offices, dining and
kitchen facilities. Both suites contain paired sleeping cubicles measuring
4 feet x 8 feet each. These are then offset against other paired cubicles
for privacy and as a means of breaking down the size of sleeping areas.
Within the cubicles, four beds bunk style, are paired opposite each other
along with lockers for individual security of personal effects.

The dining room functions as a cafeteria style dining hall and is
arranged with small tables for two or four individuals. This is to promote
small group contact as well as to eliminate the long mess hall style of
dining tables arranged in long impersonal row after row. By limiting the
tables to a maximum of four people, the intention is to foster a family or
home type of environment with interpersonal communication among the
guests and the staff.
The Program
First Floor
Lobby 285 s.f.
Check-In 125
Staff Office 64
Staff Toilet 40
Staff Lounge 135
Guest Storage 100
Receiving 221
Laundry 200
Clothing Distr. 200
Day Room 890
Reading Room 145
Job Search 130
Mens Toilet/Showers 300
Womens Toilet/Showers 175
Counseling Offices/
Exam Rooms (5) 375
3385 s.f.

Second Floor
Living Suites 990 s.f.
Sleeping Areas 815
Toilet /Shower/Laundry 575
Closet 40
Kitchen 415
Dining Room 825
Staff Offices (5) 770
4430 s.f.
Parking 19 vehicles 7600 s.f.
Storage 850
Mechanical 290
8740 s.f.

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1. Nora Greer, The Search For Shelter (Washington, D.C.: The
American Institute of Architects, 1986), 11.
2. Homeless Action Group, Report Of The Homeless Action Group
(Denver: The Homeless Action Group, 1987), ii.
4. Greer. The Search For Shelter. 11.
5. Tom Mathews, "What Can Be Done?." Newsweek (21 March 1988),
6. Karen Strauch Brown, and Philip Fellin, Practice Models For
Serving The Homeless Chronically Mentally 111 In Community Shelter
Programs (Ann Arbor: Council on Social Work Education Chronic Mental
Illness Project, May 1987), 9.
7. Franklin James, Changing Patterns Of Homelessness In Colorado:
1988-1990 (Denver: University of Colorado at Denver Graduate School of
Public Affairs, April 1991), 9.
8. Homeless Action Group, Report Of The Homeless Action Group,
9.1bid 5.
10. Colorado Coalition For The Homeless, "Mitch Snyder Brings
Message To Colorado Springs," The Homeless Advocate vol. 4, no. 2,
(May 1990), 6.
11. Homeless Action Group. Report Of The Homeless Action Group.

13.Greer, "Housing The Poor: Losing More Than We Build,"
Architecture: The AIA Journal vol. 76, no. 7, (July 1987), 67.
15.1bid., 69.
16. Mathews, 58.
17. Andrea Oppenheimer Dean, "Housing America." Architecture: The
AIA Journal vol. 79, no. 7, July 1990, 51.
18. Homeless Action Group, Appendix A. Subcommittee Reports
(Denver: The Homeless Action Group, 1987), 1.
19. Mathews, 57.
20. Homeless Action Group, Report Of The Homeless Action Group.
22. Christopher Await, "Brother Dont Spare A Dime," Newsweek
(30 September 1991), 13.
23. Greer, The Search For Shelter. 43.
24. Homeless Action Group, Report Of The Homeless Action Group.
25. Chester Hartman. Americas Housing Crisis: What Is To Be Done?
(Boston, Massachusetts: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1983), 3.
26. Greer, The Search For Shelter. 43.
27. Mathews, 58.
28. Greer, The Search For Shelter. 45.

29.1bid., 43.
30. Mathews, 58.
31. Greer, The Search For Shelter. 44.
32. Hartman, Americas Housing Crisis: What Is To Be Done?. 2.
33. Homeless Action Group, Report Of The Homeless Action Group.
35. Governors Task Force On The Homeless, Report Of The
Governors Task Force On The Homeless (Denver: State of Colorado,
December 1988), 77.
36. Greer, The Search For Shelter. 45.
37. Homeless Action Group, Appendix A. Subcommittee Reports. 1.
38. Greer, The Search For Shelter. 29.
39. Greer, "Conference Addresses Problems Of Housing For The
Homeless." Architecture: The AIA Journal vol. 74, no. 12, (December
1985), 91.
40. Greer, The Search For Shelter. 29.
41.1bid., 49.
42. Homeless Action Group, Report Of The Homeless Action Group.
43. Priscilla Painton, "Shrugging Off The Homeless," Time (16 April
1990), 16.
44. Greer, The Search For Shelter. 37.
45. Brown and Fellin, 2.