Implementing Trauma-Informed Design

Photo credit: Cristian Bernal

Photo credit: Cristian Bernal


ASID MN has launched a new Community Service committee and we are very excited to be a part of their first project! The committee is headed up by the great Jackie Millea of Shelter Architecture. With a mission of connecting with the local community to make impactful changes, ASID MN will facilitate activities ranging from one-day outreach programs to full-scale design projects. 

For the first initiative, ASID MN is partnering with People Serving People (PSP), a local non-profit which is the largest and most comprehensive family-focused shelter in Minnesota. PSP provides emergency housing and seeks to empower homeless families as they overcome barriers to stability and return to self-sufficiency. Located in the heart of downtown Minneapolis, PSP has 99 emergency housing units and provides many innovative support programs to the families who reside there.

The scope of the project is to redesign two of PSP’s Education & Enrichment classrooms. The Education & Enrichment program works with children ranging from K-5th grade. Volunteers work in small groups and one-on-one with the children for a variety of activities including icebreaker activities, group discussions, paired reading with volunteers, art projects, Cub Scouts, board games, STEM activities, and homework completion.

A volunteer works with one of the children in the Education & Enrichment classroom. Photo credit: Lisa Ross

A volunteer works with one of the children in the Education & Enrichment classroom. Photo credit: Lisa Ross

The task set forth for the ASID committee and volunteers is to redesign the spaces to increase program capacity and create a more welcoming and nurturing learning environment that will be accessible for all guests. All this will focus to achieve an end goal of better supporting children experiencing homelessness. 

Trauma-informed care principles will be incorporated into the design to better serve its inhabitants and increase wellness. The experiences leading up to, and the actual event of losing one’s home are often very traumatic for both children and adults. 

Trauma-informed care is a medical approach that emphasizes four main points (taken from SAMHSA’s website): 

1.    “Realizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands potential paths for recovery;
2.    Recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff and others involved with the system;
3.    Responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices; and
4.    Seeks to actively resist re-traumatization.”

It is the calling of a designer to continually evolve how we design spaces to better serve those who occupy them. The term “trauma-informed design” is beginning to gain momentum as architects and interior designers work to integrate the principles of trauma-informed care into their practices. To learn more about how others are implementing this new approach read these articles by Next City and Left Coast.

We are privileged to work with ASID MN’s Community Service committee to create an environment that will help children recover from the effects of homelessness while enriching their lives. The idea will be to create a space that doesn't look or feel like the traditional homeless shelter classroom while meeting the functional requirements of the space. Through the use of ample quality lighting (goodbye fluorescent lights, we hope!), integration of natural elements, maintaining outdoor views and other strategies, the classroom spaces at PSP will thrive! We can’t wait to get started and see what inventive design solutions are dreamed up.

Here at Crush Collective we love blending design and community service to create spaces that are not only beautiful but have restorative impacts on wellness. Taking the trauma-informed approach and applying it to the design process will be an amazing experience and has so much potential. We’ll keep you posted as the design progresses on!

Interested in volunteering to with PSP? They have many opportunities available, check out their website for more information! 

If you are involved in the Interior Design industry and are not yet an ASID member, click here to get started! We’d love to see you be a part of this exciting opportunity!

xoxo, Crush Collective