When The Delores Project was founded, a long-standing tradition began to give the women and transgender individuals entering their shelter hand-made quilts, lovingly crafted by volunteers. Of course, that tradition had to stop once they began serving hundreds of individuals a year, but the blankets offered these days continue to provide a warm, comforting welcome to new residents, many of whom were experiencing housing insecurity and suffering from trauma.
The quilt tradition also served as an inspiration in designing the architectural expression for Arroyo Village in Denver, award-winning housing co-developed by Rocky Mountain Communities and The Delores Project that features outdoor space as part of its healing design.
Opened in July 2019, Arroyo Village provides a continuum of care for people experiencing housing instability, which includes a homeless shelter of 60 beds, 35 one-bedroom apartments of permanent supportive housing for those earning up to 30% of average median income, and 95 one-, two- and three-bedroom affordable, workforce housing apartments for households earning between 30% and 50% of average median income.
The journey for this innovative, trauma-informed development began in 2014 when Rocky Mountain Communities and The Delores Project combined two existing sites to create the property, which is located adjacent to the Knox Court Light Rail Station in Northwest Denver.
Designed by Denver’s Shopworks Architecture, the underlying principle was to create “an atmosphere where people can feel comfortable, letting their guard down and establishing connections with others,” explained Chad Holzinger, Shopworks principal, during a recent webinar, “Trauma-Informed Design: Designing for Healing, Dignity and Joy.”
The design leverages the interior courtyard at Arroyo Village to create healing spaces. As Holzinger explains the design of the entrance to the homeless shelter, “The idea was bringing nature in and connecting people to a dignified entrance. Two steps in from the door, there’s a view out to a courtyard and a beautiful living area. It’s not intimidating, and it’s certainly not clinical.”
Arroyo Village houses Denver’s first shelter for women and transgender people, notably providing 24/7 access. As such, it was important to consider all aspects of the building to ensure that residents cannot only comfortably live, but also thrive there.
In addition to the courtyard and nature-inspired exterior, these features include comfortable seating, welcoming colors and artwork, open spaces that make people feel safe an atmosphere where people can rest and create a feeling of community.
As one Arroyo Village resident explains, “It’s a safe haven. It’s a future.”
Founded in 2000, The Delores Project is the largest single provider of shelter and services for unaccompanied women and transgender individuals in metro Denver. Since 1992, Rocky Mountain Communities has built affordable homes and provided services to help Colorado families achieve self-sufficiency and long-term financial stability.