How can architectural design address homelessness while bringing them closer to the community?

  • project statement

Immigration starts to become a serious problem in Portland, Maine in recent years. On the one hand, this city needs more immigrants to support the development of the service industry in Portland. On the other hand, with the influx of immigrants, this city requires a better solution to the problem of increasing poverty. Thus, I decided to design a re-employment center, which will help homeless and immigrants seeking better opportunities. Also, this facility will open for people who currently have a stable condition economically. There will be a coffee shop placing inside the center where people can socialize with each other while waiting for the service. I believe this will relieve the lack of socializing between the homeless and immigrants and other citizens in the city. 

This coffee shop will provide coffee and some food. Customers can not only buy themselves a cup of coffee and food but also for strangers and those who need help. The extra money they spend on strangers and homeless people will convert into a “free ticket”. Those tickets will be stored in the coffee shop and anytime those who need help can come to the coffee shop and ask for a free cup of coffee or some food by using one of the tickets. To encourage people to buy coffee for homeless people, every time they purchase a cup of coffee, they will get a certain amount of discount when next time they purchase coffee in the shop.

  • Client Interviews

Before I figure out what my design will look like, I reach out to the director of the homeless shelter in Portland to find out what my clients need. So here is a video I made of me Interviewing the director of the Oxford Street Shelter:

The homeless shelter in Portland, Maine

USERS: Immigrants, homeless people, people who need help finding jobs or just people who need a cup of coffee on a cold winter day.


The center will offer help for every citizen in Portland no matter what the current situation they are in. It will provide a place with professional guidance for people who need help finding jobs. It will also teach people with necessary skills of finding jobs like using computers and contacting HR of the company. 

The coffee shop not only provides hot coffee and food to those who need help also provides a place for creating a good atmosphere. Customers can have a cup of coffee and talk with friends or those they are not familiar with. These positive communications may help them solve the problem they have or just make them have a happy mood. 


Instead of building more and more shelters in the city to solve the problem of over-populated homelessness and immigration, the best way of helping them is to teach them the necessary skills to go back to society. People will not just get help from the counselor but other eager citizens who come to the coffee shop.  

As I think about it, this place is more like a coffee “bar” than a coffee shop. Instead of just giving them a cup of free coffee, having positive conversations with people nearby will be more important, which not only solves the problem of hunger but also teaches people how to help others. Also, this coffee shop will become a more comfortable place for people who seek help.

  • Site analysis

According to the Portland government website, the new shelter will be builded on the Riverside street. The River street is located in the surbub part of the Portland, which means homeless people and immgrants may not have a easy access to it, so I decided to build the center near the new shelter. 


  • Pictures of the site

This space is used to belong to residents, who are willing to donate their land to the Portland government to help the homeless and immigration problems. This site is about 1764m^2, and there is a forest in the north of this pit and a lumber factory in the south. Also, there is a path between the site and the factory, which connects with the main road.

This is the main road from south to north and all the buildings are on both sides. A small path connects the main roads with the lumber factory and the site.

This is the lumber factory near the site, I personally think it may block the view of the center. Thus, I would not put the window face to this side. Also, most of the buildings nearby use wood as the building material and are following the classic 80s, 90s style. It kind of influences me to use wood design as the material for the center.

This site gives me a sense of desolation. Maybe because it is winter and every plant near the site is turning to brown, but it also has an open space near the site, which can provide a really good view for the clients inside.

  • Design Process

Before I make a final decision of the design, I went through several stages of designing, these are my sketches below:


Site Plan
preliminary floor plan
Elevation and perpective

After I compared a few designs and asked for suggestions from my teachers and classmates, I finally came up with a design I feel comfortable with.

  • Final design:
right side
back site
left side
  • Elevation and perpective
  • Floor Plan
  • Interior Design
room layout

Creating this civic re-employment center makes me think about the problem we have in our society and how we can make our world better. This design might just be a little step to impact my community in a positive way, but it could become a starting point where I can really solve the problem of homelessness in the future.

Thanks for checking out my project. I hope you enjoy it !!!

Resources link to my Catalyst Project Google Doc:

The link to my survey:

Share this project
  1. April 22, 2020 by Brendan

    I am impressed by your visualizations. The quality of your linear design work is very high and really sets a professional tone to the presentation of your solution. Your ideas come alive through these images and communicate most effectively a sound understanding of architectural considerations. This is great work ! You clearly invested a lot of time; right from the outset with your thoughtful hand rendered iterations, through to the color sketch and on into your digital work. Quite Inspirational ! – Thanks for sharing.

  2. April 24, 2020 by Ahmad Rasheed

    Very Impressive! I have seen lots of projects tackling the homelessness issue but yours does it in a rather unique and interesting way. I really love the idea of the coffee shop and giving free drinks and tickets plus allowing people to socialize more. the planning, sketches, and 3D models look fabulous. I think you should have considered adding bathrooms to your structure. Other than that, it is all great.

  3. April 24, 2020 by TJ Abbazia

    Your idea is fantastic, I love how you are finding a way to support your community regarding a very important topic. I love how you added a coffee shop to the front, I would’ve never thought of that! I think you found a new, unique way to tackle this problem, and your research shows you have put a lot of thought into this!

  4. April 24, 2020 by TJ Abbazia

    Your idea is fantastic, I love how you are finding a way to support your community regarding a very important topic. I love how you added a coffee shop to the front, I would’ve never thought of that! I think you found a new, unique way to tackle this problem, and your research shows you have put a lot of thought into this!

  5. April 26, 2020 by Delfine

    Hiya Richard! First off – what software did you use? Your 3-D models look amazing! Second off – I love your innovative approach to helping the community, especially the inclusion of the coffeeshop. It shows an appreciable insight on your part. I also like how you surveyed the surroundings thoroughly, taking the views into consideration and inspiring yourself by the other buildings. You did a wonderful job – Well done!

  6. April 26, 2020 by Cole

    Great Job! I like how you included a video about your interview with someone who is a leader in a similar topic, nice job choosing someone with the information you could benefit from, even though they are not directly linked to immigration. I like that you were so dedicated to the project that you visited the site location in person to get a fresh perspective about it, that was very cool. I like the sketchup model and how nice it looks, the roof design is really cool. The interior design graphics are really cool and I wonder how you made them. Were they made using sketchUp?

  7. April 26, 2020 by Ashlin Carlisle

    This is a very great idea and I really love how you executed it. You very clearly laid out what this building would be for and the design aspects of it. I really enjoyed looking at your models and sketches. You have so many different perspectives and details of all of your models that help me to fully visualize the structure that you’re planning on making. Good job on making a fantastic product!

  8. April 26, 2020 by Caroline W

    I think this is a really interesting idea for funding. I like the idea of the tickets. The visuals you use are really good and the amount is impressive,

  9. April 26, 2020 by Kalissa F

    This is so cool! I love the idea of encouraging buying for someone behind you, especially homeless and some reward comes with it. The building you’ve designed looks great and looks more than just a coffee shop but still would attract locals not just homeless or immigrants.

  10. April 26, 2020 by Mu

    Hi, 谢明瑞! You really thought about everything from how to solve the immigrant issue to what type of wood is going to be used for the building! This is such an impressive project and will definitely make an impact. Your visuals and architectural designs are impressive and thoughtful as you took in consideration of everything the women in the interview said relating to the building.

  11. April 27, 2020 by Fay Aljasem

    Hello Richard, the outcome of your project is amazing! I’ve always liked your idea for this project and it’s amazing what you’ve done with it. Your floor plan is really clear and detailed. The perspectives that you’ve added and the models that you’ve made really bring this project to life. I’ve really enjoyed seeing this project come to life, and the outcome is honestly perfect 🙂

  12. April 28, 2020 by Ella Peterson

    What a great idea for a project! You’ve come up with such an innovative answer to a problem in your community. I like how your design serves many purposes- providing guidance, creating re-employment opportunities, and building community bonds. It’s cool to see how you used architecture to achieve that! Your final design was beautiful as well. I like how it fits in with the surrounding wooden buildings but adds a modern touch. Great job!

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.