Homes for Hope tackles homelessness with modular temporary housing

Our latest Dezeen x MINI Living video investigates a prefabricated homeless housing concept for Los Angeles that aims to bridge the gap between life on the streets and permanent accommodation.

Homes for Hope, which Los Angeles design education foundation Madworkshop developed in collaboration with the USC School of Architecture's Homeless Studio, is a modular system of prefabricated units that can be assembled rapidly on any small plot of unused land.

The project aims to create developments that will house people for three to six months before they can move into permanent accommodation.

Homes for Hope is a homeless housing solution for Los Angeles by architecture studio MadWorkshop that aims to bridge the gap between life on the streets and permanent accommodation.
Homes for Hope is a homeless housing proposal by Los Angeles design education foundation Madworkshop

Sofia Borges, director at Madworkshop, is keen to stress the importance of this intermediary period in moving homeless people into housing.

"It can be extremely traumatic for someone who has been chronically homeless for decades to go from the streets into a permanent home," Borges told Dezeen. "Having that transitional place is critical."

The housing units designed for the project, which will be fabricated off-site and then forklifted into place, can be stacked on top of each other or combined horizontally to create offices and communal spaces.

Homes for Hope is a homeless housing solution for Los Angeles by architecture studio MadWorkshop that aims to bridge the gap between life on the streets and permanent accommodation.
Housing communities would be formed of stackable, prefabricated units that can be forklifted into place

The units have been designed to offer dignity to their residents, featuring an idiosyncratic kink in the wall facing the entrance that angles the window to allow more light into the space.

"The space has an exultant feeling," Borges claimed. "It feels like it moves upwards, which has a nice psychological impact."

"There's a level of dignity to this design," she continued. "A shelter doesn't have to look like what you think a shelter looks like. Why would we design down for part of our community?"

Homes for Hope is a homeless housing solution for Los Angeles by architecture studio MadWorkshop that aims to bridge the gap between life on the streets and permanent accommodation.
Each development built using the system will feature offices for community service providers

On top of providing a comfortable and cheerful home, the units have been designed to appeal to the neighbourhoods they will inhabit in order to prevent construction from being blocked.

According to Borges, one of the major challenges of building a temporary community for the homeless is gaining the support of the local neighbourhood.

"There's a tremendous amount of stigma around this housing typology," she explained. "How do you get a community on your side to do the right thing?"

In order to appeal to local residents, the communities have been designed to blend in with the surrounding buildings. "The design looks like any kind of apartment complex," said Borges. "That's the point, it's not what you might expect."

Homes for Hope is a homeless housing solution for Los Angeles by architecture studio MadWorkshop that aims to bridge the gap between life on the streets and permanent accommodation.
The project has been designed to appeal to residents of the communities that surround the site

The project has been designed to make use of the 'by-right' housing laws passed in California in 2017, which let affordable housing projects of thirty beds or less bypass the procedures that allow community groups to appeal against their construction.

"Homes for Hope was designed with NIMBYism in mind," said Borges. "Even if a neighbourhood doesn't want it, they can't stop it at a public hearing.”

Homes for Hope is a homeless housing solution for Los Angeles by architecture studio MadWorkshop that aims to bridge the gap between life on the streets and permanent accommodation.
Madworkshop developed Homes for Hope in collaboration with the USC School of Architecture's Homeless Studio

Borges claims that the lack of focus on emergency stabilisation housing in favour of permanent housing solutions for the homeless ultimately leads to a greater number of people living on the streets in Los Angeles, where the homeless population is currently estimated at being somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000.

"There's a tremendous amount of focus on permanent supportive housing, which is the solution for ending homelessness," said Borges.

However, she notes that permanent housing solutions can take three to five years to develop and build, leaving many without a place to live in the interim. "You can't leave people out on the streets for that long," she said. "It's irresponsible."

Homes for Hope is a homeless housing solution for Los Angeles by architecture studio MadWorkshop that aims to bridge the gap between life on the streets and permanent accommodation.
The architects claim that once the project is fully funded, the first community can be assembled within six months

The architects claim that funding is currently the only barrier that stands in the way of construction of the first Homes for Hope community. "As soon as funding comes into place, the first community can be on-site within six months," Borges asserted.

The first developments will be built in partnership with Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission, a local charity who will act as an on-site service provider for the residents.

This movie is part of Dezeen x MINI Living Initiative, a collaboration with MINI Living exploring how architecture and design can contribute to a brighter urban future through a series of videos and talks.