A name, not a number
In my travels visiting housing and facilities of many kinds, the similarities between people experiencing homelessness and those are not in such a crisis sometimes become apparent. For example, numbers on beds in large sleeping dormitory rooms are necessary for finding the right cot at night– but few of us would want to be known as a number. The problem is that in the busy shuffle of trying to help as many people as possible each night to get off the streets and into a protected shelter to eat and sleep, sometimes the humanity of the situation is difficult to maintain.
This photo shows a “Hello my name is” sticker stuck to an emergency shelter bed, providing the occupant’s name (presumably created by the resident himself– the last name has been obscured to protect identity here). As I toured the room, this really struck me– a voice crying out to be known by his name instead of an anonymous person in bed #22 tonite.
There is so much architecture and interior design can do to preserve one’s self-esteem and dignity. Some of these tactics are small in both effort expended and cost. Giving people the chance to proclaim that they exist and they have a name in places where it counts like this could be a modest but meaningful way to honor and respect someone’s journey through their homelessness crisis.
As project lead for Design Resources for Homelessness (designresourcesforhomelessness.org), next month I’m excited to participate in a Los Angeles conference entitled “Putting Care at the Center” hosted by the National Center for Complex Health and Social Needs. #Centeringcare We’ll share an emerging tool that will help organizations determine if their housing or facilities attend to 8 fundamental human needs like empowerment, sense of control, and dignity. It’s part of our plan to reconnect architecture and interior design to the great purpose it can fulfill for people experiencing one of the biggest crises of their lives— homelessess.