Over the coming school year, Tulane architecture students and faculty will partner to design and build a recreation space for children and mothers experiencing homelessness, as well as a visioning plan for a community and office space for those working in criminal justice reform.
The two projects are part of an annual program focused on providing design services to Orleans Parish-based nonprofits and is led by the Albert and Tina Small Center for Collaborative Design (Small Center) at the Tulane School of Architecture.
"Our students need to understand that they have the ability to affect change to complex systems through design in incremental ways,” said Emilie Taylor Welty, professor of practice at Tulane School of Architecture and design-build manager at Small Center. “With the current state of our criminal justice system and challenges of supporting people experiencing homelessness, our aspiration is to engage students through these projects to further the conversation on these subjects.”
Nonprofits selected for the 2019-2020 academic year are Hotel Hope and Resurrection After Exoneration. Along with a jury of design professionals, past partners, and funders, Small Center facilitated an intensive review of 20 applications this past spring from nonprofits that work in a variety of sectors, such as education, labor equity, environmental conservation, and youth empowerment.
For the Fall 2019 Design-Build project, Small Center will partner with Hotel Hope on "A Play Haven for Hotel Hope," a shaded recreation space for children to play near their mothers during their time of stay. This space will encourage children to enjoy and express themselves while assisting in enhancing a sense of comfort as families transition out of homelessness.
Hotel Hope is a nonprofit, interfaith organization that provides housing to women and their children while guiding them to self-sufficiency and self-empowerment through intensive case management in a safe and loving atmosphere. In 2017, Hotel Hope launched its emergency shelter service model and, to date, has served 74 mothers and 162 children, who were once living in their car, on the street, or in uninhabitable conditions. Of the women who have successfully completed the program, 100% are in housing today.
“We are so excited to partner with Tulane architecture students and faculty as they design a play haven for the children staying at the hotel,” said Sister Mary Lou Specha, PBVM, Executive Director. “The dream of turning a former parking lot into play space is something we desired since purchasing the property last August. I know the play space will be the first thing the children want to run to as they come and stay at Hotel Hope after experiencing homelessness."
For the 2019-2020 Visioning project, Small Center will work with Resurrection After Exoneration on "The RAE House." The RAE House Visioning Project will be a redesign of the current Resurrection After Exoneration building. to include more useful programming space, community gathering space, and office space for service providers – such as GED services, educational programming, counselors, attorneys, caseworkers, and other small nonprofits that do criminal justice reform.
"I'm very excited about the future process and to be a Small Center community partner,” said Lavern Thompson, Executive Director of Resurrection After Exoneration. “Resurrection After Exoneration's mission has always been to help those in need and with this project, we will gain momentum to get us the operating capacity needed to continue our mission and keep my late husband's legacy alive.
Thompson said she has always wanted to continue what her late husband, John “JT” Thompson, started as the nonprofit’s executive director.
“This organization started with JT's desire to help people returning home from prison transition back into society with a skill set and support system,” Thompson said. “A support system for those returning home from prison is desperately needed in the city of New Orleans, and we at Resurrection After Exoneration want to make sure we are prepared to answer the call."
The current Resurrection After Exoneration building has tremendous potential for modeling best practices in one-stop reentry services, as well as being able to provide community, safety and support for exonerated men and women upon their release. Small Center will collaborate with RAE to create a design reflective of these aspirations.
Resurrection After Exoneration (RAE) was founded in 2007 by exonerees to promote and sustain a network of support among formerly wrongfully incarcerated individuals in the South. RAE works to reconnect exonerees to their communities and provide access to those opportunities of which they were robbed.