Sasaki planner Gretchen Keillor recently penned a letter to the editor of ArchitectureBoston, in response to their latest issue, Domicile. This issue explores affordable housing and the concept of home, subjects that are particularly meaningful to Keillor, who has spent the last year researching homelessness as part of a research initiative at Sasaki. In an effort to continually advance the caliber of our practice, Sasaki awards research grants to employees every six months, sponsoring employees to pursue subjects of interest that align with the firm's practice areas. Keillor's work began in 2016, aiming to overcome misconceptions about the homeless, bring transparency to the data that exists on homelessness in the United States, and provide ideas big and small for solving the problem.
"I think about this [homeless] population often. Surprisingly, 60 percent of the homeless in the Boston area are families with at least one child; less than 15 percent suffer from severe mental illness or a substance abuse problem,” wrote Keillor in her letter. What we can’t forget is that 100 percent are members of our community, carrying their homes into the places we create. How can we, as design professionals, support them? Even as we turn to more robust large-scale solutions to solve...problems of housing, let’s remember the voiceless stakeholders who occupy the spaces we create whether we intend them to or not. For those who carry their homes with them, let’s make the buildings we design more welcoming, make our public spaces more kind, make our landscapes more serene. Let’s not forget to design for this population, too."
To summarize and showcase the research, Keillor as a user experience designer and planner, worked with an interdisciplinary team of software developers, graphic designers, and planners to develop a resource aimed at educating concerned citizens, city officials, and designers about homelessness, aggregating multiple data sets from HUD, BLS, BEA, the Census, and more to paint a more complete picture of homeless populations and their realities. In addition, Keillor collected myriad solutions for homelessness that are being tested and implemented nationwide—over 80 examples organized into a set of nearly 30 strategies. The website is designed to be the place to begin understanding homelessness, leaving a visitor more informed and inspired.
Visit the website Understand Homelessness, here.