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8 Epic Fails Involving Urban Designing for the Homeless

8 Epic Fails Involving Urban Designing for the Homeless

Homelessness is by in large considered both a community problem and a national problem. It is an epidemic that affects millions of Americans nationwide every day. Beyond the political battle over how to resolve the homelessness epidemic, there lies a fundamental truth about the problem. That truth is that many decision makers simply don’t know

by Jamaal Davis August 31, 2012 2 comments

Homeless sleeping on streetHomelessness is by in large considered both a community problem and a national problem. It is an epidemic that affects millions of Americans nationwide every day.

Beyond the political battle over how to resolve the homelessness epidemic, there lies a fundamental truth about the problem. That truth is that many decision makers simply don’t know how to help them. Nowhere has that become apparent than in the world of modern architecture and urban design. Since the twentieth century, many planners and architects have created some of the most innovative concepts while isolating some of the neediest people, like the homeless. An example of this might be the redesigning of downtown Manhattan, New York during the late 1970’s.

Many experts have blamed the problem on failures in social programs that don’t meet the needs of the homeless, while others blame elected officials who appear to lack the desire to dig into the roots of what causes this problem. Whatever side you may take, what is painfully clear is that these urban planners and designers have, over time, made critical errors while creating concepts that satisfy the community and the homeless.

However, there are eight areas where planners and designers have made the most critical mistakes:

  1. Urban designers fail to understand that designing for the homeless can have an impact on the quality of public space;
  2. Urban designers don’t always understand the needs of both the city and the homeless;
  3. Most urban designs ultimately end up being designed in a way that keeps out the homeless;
  4. Modern designs make homelessness invisible;
  5. Architectural designs usually only provide temporary solutions for the homeless;
  6. Urban Designs don’t consider the social impacts the homeless;
  7. Designs treats homelessness as a disease;
  8. Architectural designs are never all-inclusive.

At the end of the day, planners and designers should learn that being homeless can be a temporary issue or become a permanent problem.

What do you think? Are urban designers doing enough to design for the homeless?

Credits: Image and data linked to sources.

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Jamaal Davis has lived in Richmond, Virginia for over 37 years, where he was born and raised. He studied Urban and Regional Planning at Virginia Commonwealth University. His interests in urban planning began in the low-income neighborhoods of Southsi...

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