What does ending homelessness in Alachua County look like?
GRACE provides services that make a difference. Since 2014, they’ve reduced homelessness in Alachua County by 47% by moving more than 1,700 people into permanent housing. They reached out to us with a simple need: to serve more people with the only resource that can actually end homelessness: housing.
GRACE’s current campus, a complex that started life as a detention facility, is devoted to sheltering the unhoused and providing a wide variety of services to support their well-being and generate opportunity. To meet that mission, it had to look and feel different. A lot different.
The center is known for doing big things with a modest budget, and they have been incredibly successful in transforming intimidating spaces into inviting and safe ones. We were asked to carry that momentum forward to convert an unused dormitory into a new model of affordable housing. The existing 9,500 SF facility was set up for security with open gang toilets and open barracks. Our team was tasked with providing 18-20 new single-occupancy studio apartments.
"Working with Walker Architects has been a transformative experience for us. They helped us think about our campus in new and exciting ways — far beyond anything we could have come up with on our own."
Jon DeCarmine, GRACE’s Executive Director.
Through conversations with the directors of GRACE, we learned about countless success stories from their patrons. We drew inspiration from these stories to flip the program inside out... Literally.
The design started as a traditional double-loaded corridor with studio apartments flanking a long narrow hallway. Reimagining this layout to ease the sense of confinement, we came up with an open garden environment that allowed private and safe entry into each dwelling unit.
This change in thinking allowed the design team to provide 31 units of varying sizes to meet different needs of patrons, incorporating scales of communal space to gather, learn, relax, and above all... feel safe. The design allowed us to empathize with GRACE’s mission and the people they serve, offering them the means to live with dignity and respect on their own terms.
For more information on the programs and services GRACE offers, visit gracemarketplace.org.