Communal Space: [Re]connect

Communal Space


Community support and [re]connection with others to break the isolation of abuse

Public meeting spaces allow connections with the community.
Communal spaces designed to be accessible to individuals and groups from the community, without compromising the safety of residents, can open up new opportunities for learning and support. Community members can come to the shelter to teach skills such as carpentry, cooking, or entrepreneurial skills. Shelters have found community members are happy to bring their skills and knowledge to shelter residents when a space existed to do so. As a result, they were able to offer their residents more resources without increasing their funding.

A diagram of multiple thresholds that allow for public, semi-public and private shelter spaces.
Consider This
When Jefferson County Dove House built new program and transitional housing space, they concluded that secrecy was working against the agency in terms of building the relationships needed to serve survivors better. The new building has a community meeting room that provides a safe place for survivors to network. It is used by residents to gather with family and friends, support groups and classes, and other organizations. For example, a women’s business program offered coaching on starting a small business. People go in the building for a variety of reasons; thus reducing stigma and providing “cover” for survivors going there for services.
Private gathering spaces allow residents to come together.
While communal spaces are a given in the converted single family home shelter, they must be consciously planned when the housing model is individual units or apartments. When rebuilding, consider what sorts of communal spaces are desired by residents and benefit them? (Generally, residents would rather not share a bathroom, for example.) What sort of spaces are most usefully shared, and which are better private? Buildings with individual units can include communal spaces on each floor of an apartment building to allow residents the opportunity to gather as a family unit or to socialize and find support from each other without sacrificing privacy (ie their own units). Spaces for support groups, birthday parties and potlucks are valued by staff and residents.

A floor plan of a building that has many individual units, but also a large shared deck, lounge and laundry room.
Strategy in Action
At the Plaza Apartments, an affordable housing development in San Francisco, each resident has their own apartment and benefits from shared lounges, laundry and deck space.
A commercial kitchen, garage, workshop and/or computer workspace can build economic options for residents.
Residents who cook, cater, sew, provide alterations, or create crafts to sell, or provide service that requires computer use/web access benefit economically when tools and spaces for these economic endeavors are available.

A woman chopping vegetables in a bright kitchen.