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Rethinking Supportive Housing for Homeless Youth

The INNclusion Home program is a first of its kind for the region. Blue Door Services identified the need for population-specific support for LGBTQ+ youth in York Region.

There are sub-populations in homelessness that experience significant and distinct challenges to finding a path to secure housing. Sadly, racism and discrimination are common barriers faced by this group.

I am grateful to Michael Braithwaite, CEO at Blue Door, and Alex Cheng, Director of Community Programs, for the opportunity to partner with their agency on this project.

About Space Designs specializes in evidence-based design with a special focus on how interior design impacts mental health. Specifically, the benefits of trauma-informed design in spaces that serve our vulnerable populations. Design matters.

Not only is this an innovative program in the shelter services sector, but it is also a recognition of the benefits of evidence-based design. Clients who come to this program have experienced trauma and are now engaging in the recovery process. To support this engagement, the goal was to ensure there were no psychological triggers and that each room creates a restorative and supportive environment.

Biophilic elements are an important part of the design for this project. Nature is healing. Each room incorporates natural materials, plants and representations of nature in art. But this doesn't just look pretty - it reduces anxiety, lowers blood pressure, reduces mental fatigue, improves cognition and more.

Since there was no need for a formal dining room, it was a great opportunity to turn this into an office where clients can meet with staff or just sit and read in a quiet spot. While the window had blinds, when open, you look into the neighbour's (very close) window. The sheer curtains create softness and privacy while still allowing natural light in. The vibe here is calming and comforting.

As part of creating a space that serves LGBTQ youth, it was important to reinforce messages of acceptance, inclusion and empowerment by including art and literature relevant to this community. I reached out to Glad Day Bookshop, the first queer-focused Canadian bookstore, for some guidance in my selections. When I told them about the project, they gifted us with numerous books. I will add, that they are much more than a bookstore - they are an incredible group of generous people that support local artists and their community as a whole.

The relevance of art in this space can not be emphasized enough. All of the art chosen is significant and intentional to the design. Biophilic art and LGBTQ related pieces were selected to support the clients. Inspiration times three! Who's your fav?

A big thank you to local artists for their generous hearts in gifting us with their original artwork and spreading happiness 💗 Felt Crafty Lucky Jackson and Amanda Pistillo

The bedroom is the most private and personal room in your home. A place of respite from the outside world. For people that have experienced homelessness, this is even more relevant. This room, like the rest of the house, was painted in a soft, warm grey. More soft tones in the bedding and drapes with nature inspired patterns, delicate flowers and simple art that says "we love you", all create a soothing, calm place to rest. We kept things simple to allow lots of opportunities for clients to personalize and make it their own.

Life is difficult, especially so over the last year and we all need a way to escape once in a while. Find your happy place.

This project holds a personal meaning for me and my family. I could not have achieved this without their (free) labour of love.

The message to the clients of this program is one of support, inclusion, dignity and worth. Welcome Home ❤️ 🌈

Is your space supportive for clients and staff? Don't know where to start? I'm here to help. Only have a small budget? That's ok, I know how to S T R E T C H that. Call me and I'll help you find a happy space.

For more images and stories about the project, check out our Instagram posts @aboutspacedesigns


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