Diamond Youth Shelter

San Francisco, CA

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This building for San Francisco’s Larkin Street Youth Services is a home and an essential safe haven for homeless youth between the ages of 14 and 17 years old.  The mission of Larkin Street Youth Services is to create a continuum of services that inspires youth to move beyond the street.  This new building, the Diamond Youth Shelter, accommodates 15-20 young people in a supervised residential environment, providing emergency shelter and services in order to stabilize the situation until a permanent solution is found. The residents’ stays at DYS may range from 2 to 15 nights.

A home should be a safe place of shelter, with spaces for both social interaction and privacy.  Cooking dinner and eating together is a normal part of life, not the crisis it is while on the streets. To reinforce these ideas, the design accommodates the program services in a non-institutional, residential setting.   The project meets these goals in a design sensitive to the architectural scale and feeling of its neighborhood.

The design provides fully-accessible facilities and durable materials and finishes to meet the demands of the program.  Program area requirements (Common spaces, bedrooms, staff areas and shared restrooms), a small building footprint due to zoning setbacks, and attention to neighborhood context led to a 3-story solution. 

Providing the neighborhood with a building residential in scale and feeling was imperative to the neighbors.  The neighborhood is an eclectic assemblage of architectural styles, the most notable and memorable buildings in the neighborhood being Victorian houses -- for the most part now divided into multi-tenant apartments.  Taking our queues from the massing, form, scale and fenestration of these historic buildings, the design employs many of their basic features without trying to replicate them. The three-story height, single-hung bay windows, wood siding and trim, and front and rear-yard setbacks provide a low-key, modern interpretation of the elements found in the neighborhood buildings.