Design Award Entries

Next Step Homeless Services

30 non-congregate homes and an accompanying Services Building build a community hub in Fort Smith’s downtown to provide transitional homes and updated facilities as a first step for the homeless community as they seek permanent housing.

Project Statement

The development of a new campus for the Next Step Homeless Services in an industrial area of downtown Fort Smith is driven by the need for transitional housing and support spaces to further serve the homeless community as an alternative to current congregate housing options. Thirty new non-congregate housing units and a new Services Building settle across the site, forming distinct social conditions, providing services, and enabling a smooth, comfortable transition for people taking their first steps to get off the streets.

Located at a central location of the site, the Services Building performs as a gate between the residential zone to the north and a community zone to the south creating a comfortable transition from living on the streets to living a secure neighborhood accessed through communal courtyards. Three vernacular roof types provide the basic forms of the three individual housing units, and they share the same 8’ x 12’ floor plan with an 8’ top plate to minimize material waste and cost. These houses are duplicated and combined, using different methods, along linear paths mixing relationships between the houses, the residents, and shared resident lawns. The result of this planning is a landscape of varying social and environmental dynamics for temporary residents to engage with in comfortable ways.

The Services Building recalls the housing forms through the profile of the roof and hosts administrative spaces, resident areas, and support spaces for residents. A front porch and rear patio are connected through the lobby and multi-purpose hall centrally located in the building. Located off the multi-purpose hall is a laundry room for residents to do their laundry. The administration spaces on the west side of the building include volunteer and staff offices, a reception desk, staff bathrooms, break room, meeting room, and an overnight staff room to monitor the residences. On the east side of the building, the service spaces are made up of a kitchen, dish wash room, volunteer work space, dry food storage, and donation storage.

AIA Arkansas