In late January, Sasaki planners Brie Hensold [pictured above center] and Gretchen Keillor [right] attended a National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) Innovation Lab in Los Angeles that explored issues of homelessness in parks. As urban revitalization continues to change the landscape of many cities across the United States, homelessness is emerging as a pivotal issue in the planning, programming, and maintenance of public parks.
The NRPA Innovation Lab, co-hosted by Los Angeles’ Department of Recreation and Parks, offered a platform for parks planners, park & city officials, and experts on homelessness to share perspectives, research, and experience. During the two-day Innovation Lab, participants toured several Los Angeles parks, learned from community members, and attended panel discussions.
Parks planners and officials visited key parks in Los Angeles to see ideas in action
In the first panel discussion, Sasaki principal Brie Hensold presented alongside Stephen Bentley, Assistant Director for the City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Resources, and Jesus Aguirre, Superintendent at Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation. Hensold provided an overview of homelessness to establish shared understanding with the audience, while Bentley and Aguirre described successful measures that their own parks departments have undertaken.
As a supplementary resource to the conversation, Hensold shared a web-based resource developed
by Keillor that outlines the issue of homelessness, maps the homeless across
the United States, and provides a set of case study examples for solving
homelessness already being implemented by organizations nationwide. Keillor’s
work is part of Sasaki’s ongoing in-house research initiatives.
Panelists identified a number of innovative solutions within their own communities for ameliorating the effects of homelessness. They shared the struggle for parks and recreation officials as they attempt to balance the needs of daily park users and the homeless, and to show compassion for individuals while enforcing park rules or maintenance standards. Collaboration between federal departments, state and city agencies, and non-profits emerged as a successful model for leveraging the resources of many groups, helping connect homeless individuals to much-needed social services, and effectively taking on the burden of this major social issue together.
Click here to read about harnessing the power of data to help the homeless.
Photos courtesy of NRPA and JuanCarlos Chan from the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks.