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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.”

The space needed to be functional, welcoming and comfortable—but perhaps most importantly, it needed to serve as a front door. “The space had to work very hard on multiple fronts,” says Lopez. “It functions as the front door and the face of Wise Place, not only for the women, but also for the community. We were challenged to connect the women of Wise Place to the community while being respectful of their transition and their hard work.” RDC included features like storage space in the multipurpose room, which frequently hosts events, that could house chairs and fitness equipment when not in use, and a library wall stocked with reading material.

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Kelsi Maree Borland

Kelsi Maree Borland is a freelance journalist and magazine writer based in Los Angeles, California. For more than 5 years, she has extensively reported on the commercial real estate industry, covering major deals across all commercial asset classes, investment strategy and capital markets trends, market commentary, economic trends and new technologies disrupting and revolutionizing the industry. Her work appears daily on GlobeSt.com and regularly in Real Estate Forum Magazine. As a magazine writer, she covers lifestyle and travel trends. Her work has appeared in Angeleno, Los Angeles Magazine, Travel and Leisure and more.

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