Housing Solutions for Homeless Elderly People (and those in threat of homelessness)

                                                              

Housing Solutions for Homeless Elderly People (and those in threat of homelessness)

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Solution proposed by: 
Allen Kong Architect and Wintringham
In a Nutshell: 
These series of projects successfully address the needs of the most vulnerable in the community foster a sense of individual identity and a connection to the wider community. Building and design solutions and management principles go hand in hand to create a successful place to live.
Where and When: 
Melbourne, Australia project inception 1989 and continues to date with 20 constructed major projects1. Wintringham was established in 1989 in response to the frustrations of watching elderly men and women die in homeless persons’ night shelters, unable to access mainstream aged care services who wanted nothing to do with homeless people.
Challenges: 
The challenge was to create suitable environments for residents who are from varied background and often with compounding ailments after years of living rough along with the other aged related disabilities The unsuccessful Gordon House of the 1980s2 where murders and beatings amongst the residents occurred on a regular basis, was evidence that mere accommodation was not enough The building design needed to respond to challenging behaviours and fierce independence (and distrust). At the time elderly were housed in generic shelters for the homeless. So not only the age related supports were built but included the more subtle aspects of social sustainability- how people with challenging behaviours could live together.
Innovation: 
Suitable accommodation and support services Changing the paradigm –Being thought of first as elderly and therefore should be able to access all the services available to other elderly Australians. Providing suitable accommodation and support services for this group benefits all, the individual has a healthier and safe existence; the community is relieved from the worry and concern of homeless people eking a place in the fringes of the public realm; and is shown to be cost effective as alternative to burdening other public institutions such as emergency services, police, ambulance, and hospital beds.
Concept: 
Home until ‘Stumps’5 Provide secure and appropriate housing with support services The concept of design for residential accommodation should not necessarily evoke an atmosphere of some archetypical family environment, but should rather be reminiscent of the familiar as what one group of people may consider to be a "family style", may be totally different to another group. For that reason, accommodation takes into account not only cultural and religious diversity, but also different life styles. This formed the basis of the design brief which also emphasised as much as possible, the normal patterns of living that encourage independence and self-reliance while acknowledging the need for design characteristics that take heed of individual frailty. Fundamental to the design is that all circulation is by way of veranda space. This provided many benefits; the health benefits of every day independent connection with the outside; the strong sense of independence; the sense of openness and reduction in feeling of crowding. More economical construction and identifiable transition zone between inside and outside as semi private defensible space.
Description: 
The solutions have evolved over the years from 1989 to the most recent completed project in Dandenong but the principles have remained constant. Implementation has adjusted to suit economic conditions and local context The housing provided is modest and in context within its neighbourhood. The location is important and are located within suitable and well services residential areas The style and layout of the new building are different to traditional residential care accommodation in their openness and separateness, emphasising the independence of the residents and the enabling aspects rather than the protective models of care. The solution of circulation via veranda space was informed by the quintessential Australian farm house, but also the research that says to have a full and healthy life one must have daily unavoidable contact with the outdoors.6 The Staffing principles are non-judgmental, residents could live in their own way – so long as not adversely impacting on other residents or staff. The building planning allowed the resident to regulate their own social interaction which was assisted by the spatial layout and orientation of the rooms, promoting a sense of security in the principles of ‘prospect and refuge. The aesthetic rejected the temptation to building with “hard’’ low maintenance materials in favour of softer and caring materials with a strong commitment to providing well maintained building and gardens. This image reflects the care and personal attention to the residents as well as the surrounds. As the external circulation forms the essence of the social heart of the projects great emphasis is placed on the design. It needs to be protective but also provide the right about of space for residents to create and regulate their social conditions. The gardens are strongly interlaced with the building such that the garden take precedence over the building.
Impacts: 
The projects have had broad effect providing affordable and desirable solutions and been investigated by many other researchers The solution contributes to the Environmental, Economic and Social sustainability by at each site. The most recent project Potter Street Redevelopment has been recognised by World Architecture News for its contribution to sustainability. It has managed to adopt a loose fit and adaptable approach to climate change.