Transforming Lives: The Journey Through The Housing Resource Center In Palm Beach County, Florida

Transforming Lives: The Journey Through The Housing Resource Center In Palm Beach County, Florida

Transforming Lives: The Journey Through The Housing Resource Center In Palm Beach County, Florida

by Maged Elsheikh

At OLC Architecture, Interiors, and Aquatics, our latest endeavor, the Housing Resource Center in Palm Beach County embodies our dedication to societal transformation through architectural innovation. This center is not merely a structure but a sanctuary for empowerment and rehabilitation, reflecting a commitment to addressing homelessness with dignity and comprehensive support.

A Deeper Look at Palm Beach County’s Challenges
Recent statistics have shown a concerning 32% increase in homelessness in Palm Beach County. Factors contributing to this surge include the skyrocketing cost of living, with rents outpacing both the national average and local wage growth. This has resulted in a staggering 56.6% of households spending over 30% of their income on rent, marking Palm Beach County as one of the US’s most unaffordable regions.

Evictions, a critical indicator of housing instability, have seen a significant rise, further exacerbating the homelessness crisis. Efforts to mitigate these challenges include various county initiatives, from rental and utility assistance for over 20,000 households to strategies for increasing affordable housing units.

The Response to Rising Homelessness
In response to the pressing issue of homelessness in Palm Beach County, “Leading The Way Home” was developed as an encompassing strategy, focusing on securing housing for homeless families, implementing affordable housing relocation programs, and enhancing the availability of both temporary and permanent accommodations. A key milestone in this initiative was the inauguration of the Housing Resource Center in Lake Worth Beach which underscores the commitment to creating affordable housing opportunities, including for veterans, among other targeted efforts.

Community Involvement and Acceptance
As OLC engaged in the design of the project, we became aware of the neighborhood residents’ resistance to accepting a different usage in their backyard, which compromised the project’s construction at this location and is a challenge for the County at any site. OLC listened to the concerns raised by the community committee, which was elected to oversee the project’s progress, as well as the County staff. We also took into account the vision, desires, and ultimate aspirations of the stakeholders, housing operators, and the County’s project managers.

Our goal at OLC was to create a design that respects the community, providing privacy for both the facility’s residents and the neighboring residents through strategic building location, orientation, and mass reduction to reflect the scale of residential homes. We believe that fostering a sense of sharing leads to acceptance. Therefore, OLC proposed the addition of a walk/jog track around the site’s perimeter and the provision of six outdoor exercise pods for use by both populations. Moreover, we aimed to offer the facility’s residents a sense of safety and acceptance through the creation of a screened private garden.

OLC was honored to receive the community committee’s endorsement at the first public meeting, which propelled us forward in completing the project.

The Center: A Foundation for New Beginnings
Covering an area of 20,200 square feet and constructed with a $14 million investment, the Housing Resource Center was designed as an interim abode offering a 90-day program aimed at empowering its residents. With 60 bedrooms arranged in pods to cater to different demographics—men, women, and youth—each unit is equipped with essential furnishings to provide comfort and privacy. Additionally, specialized accommodations include private rooms for couples and transitional spaces for short-term stays.

Central to the center’s mission is its holistic support system, which includes counseling offices, employment assistance, educational guidance, and help in securing permanent housing. This approach ensures that assistance goes beyond mere shelter, addressing the root causes of homelessness and paving a path toward self-sufficiency and stability.

Beyond Shelter: Cultivating Community and Connection
The communal spaces within the center, such as the dining area and community hall, are designed to foster a sense of belonging and community among residents. These areas are more than just physical spaces; they are environments where connections are formed, stories are shared, and a collective sense of hope is nurtured.

A Model For The Future
OLC was committed to providing a facility that will not only be accepted by the community but also valued by both users and staff, raising the bar for homeless housing facilities. We understand that homelessness is often not a choice but the result of unfortunate circumstances. Therefore, providing a safe, welcoming, and calm environment is essential for well-being. This goal can be achieved by using lighter colors, high ceilings, and clerestory windows in the lobby and residents’ lounges to allow daylight in. The sleeping areas are grouped into small pods to accommodate individuals with similar interests, activities, work schedules, and ages. Additionally, the lower windows in the sleeping areas are fitted with translucent films to allow daylight in while ensuring privacy. Each group of pods includes a private lounge, in addition to common lounge areas that facilitate cross-gender interaction.

The Housing Resource Center in Palm Beach County stands as a testament to the potential of architectural design not only to create spaces but to transform lives. By integrating thoughtful design with a comprehensive support system, the center aims to be a model for addressing homelessness, not just locally but also nationwide.

Palm Beach County Community Services (n.d.). Point In Time Homeless Count.

Leading The Way Home Palm Beach County (n.d.). Strategies to Break the Cycle of Homelessness in Response to the 24-hour Homeless Point In Time Count.