Shelter Design: Homeless people judge UCLA student architecture

Tom Boland (
Sun, 25 Apr 1999 11:32:07 -0700 (PDT)

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FWD  Los Angeles Times - Friday, April 23, 1999 [California, USA]


     Education: UCLA students had to use materials
     from the streets and design suitable abodes.
     The judges were former homeless people.

     By Bob Pool, LA Times Staff Writer

Her graduate school thesis about homelessness has a hole in it,
Epifania Amoo-Adare discovered Thursday.

When she set out with nine UCLA classmates to design and build
homeless shelters as part of an urban planning course, the 32-year-old
Santa Monica resident built hers a little too fancy for the comfort of
former homeless people recruited to judge the structures.

Hers had windows and curtains made from plastic shopping bags. And a

Explained judge Mike Neely: "Since you live outside as a homeless
person, seeing the sky isn't one of your highest priorities."

Tiny lean-tos made from cardboard, plastic and scrap wood lined a
patio outside the university's Public Policy Building as Neely and
several other former street people evaluated them and offered an
insiders' view of skid row.

Students seeking advanced degrees in such fields as social work, city
planning and architecture were required to scavenge materials and then
construct shelters suitable for sleeping in. Camping out overnight was

Urban planning professor Jackie Leavitt said the assignment was
designed to acquaint students with housing issues they may face in future

;"We want them to know how it feels walking in someone else's shoes,"
said Mary Brent Wehrli, a social welfare faculty member.

Students proved resourceful. Peter Aeschbacher, 29, of Hollywood,
found a sturdy, wooden museum shipping crate and covered it with plastic.

Judge Floyd Fluellen warned that something that heavy would seem even
heavier to a homeless person dragging it along downtown sidewalks.


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