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There has been a call from many corners to develop solutions to the homeless crisis striking Southern California. Funding is often the biggest challenge to overcome, and in Orange County like the Association of California Cities-Orange County is developing the Orange County Housing Trust to close the funding gap for projects. However, designers and architects can play an integral role in the development of homeless and transitional housing by designing projects that fit into the existing fabric of the community and in helping—through quality design—to gain support for transitional housing that exists in and within neighborhoods.

Retail Design Collaborative has used its skills to design a new community room at Wise Place, an organization dedicated to ending homelessness among women in Orange County. Wise Place challenged designers through a project called Transformation: Turning Space into Place to design a community room that would serve as a gathering place for the women in the center. “This was a unique program. It was really the first of its kind. When we got together with Herman Miller and Kathleen Neary. When we got together, there was no real precedent about this type of effort, but we were all in,” Jonathan Lopez, associate principal and design director at Retail Design Collaborative, tells GlobeSt.com. “The impetus for the design really came out of a conversation. We met with Kathleen Davis Bowman, the director of Wise Place, and the core idea that came out of that conversation and dialogue was to create a place where women would feel at home. That became the core idea of the community room.”

Kelsi Maree Borland

Kelsi Borland is a freelance writer and editor living whose work has appeared in such publications as Travel + Leisure, Angeleno and Riviera Orange County.

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