Villas on the Park is the first 100% permanent supportive housing (PSH) project in downtown and only the second in the City of San Jose. It offers 83 PSH units at 30-50% AMI with enhanced onsite social services for the formerly chronically homeless. Developed to serve the needs of the local population of individuals experiencing homelessness with priority placement for those residing in nearby St. James Park, it received a unanimous 12-0 entitlement approval vote from City Council; the result of a highly successful community outreach campaign that turned the tide of community opposition. With a contemporary architectural style rooted in trauma-informed design principles, it resists re-traumatization, restores dignity, and defies misconceptions of what housing for the homeless looks like, maintaining a 99% resident retention rate. From day one, based on PATH Case Manager outreach information, services and design were rooted in trauma-informed design principles. Semi-enclosed, transitional spaces between outdoor/indoor spaces help reduce anxiety many formerly homeless residents experience adapting to indoor living.
The design has lowered barriers to and minimized stigma of residents receiving services that cause some to feel uncomfortable meeting in office settings with a variety of informal, transitional indoor/outdoor spaces designed that have provided an alternative model for service delivery:
- Large centralized courtyard: A shaded alcove furnished with a large red picnic table, has allowed staff to host a range of outdoor therapeutic groups to learn and practice new skills to manage and reduce distressing mental health symptoms. Sightlines from the open-air circulation pathways to the courtyard enable staff to casually greet residents passing by and invite them to join the groups.
- First floor “atrium”: Clinicians lead coffee groups at the front entry way, where they have the opportunity to connect with individuals as they come and go in a non-threatening and welcoming atmosphere.
- First floor lobby: Residents frequently relax at the entry way, allowing staff to casually engage with residents in a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere.
The design evokes the natural context of St. James Park. Exterior materials, such as the porcelain tile veneer, were selected for both durability and to evoke the colors and textures of the park trees. The exterior brise-soleil screen on the streetscape façade allows filtered sunlight and air into the community, adding interesting shadow play reminiscent of days at the park. Entry courtyard is a two-story, covered outdoor space with a decorative metal gate. It provides a quaint, landscaped space that is secure and a quiet pause-point before entering. Stepped-back massing creates space for a rooftop deck with views towards the park on the 6th level of the south corner. Open-air circulation hallways provide connection opportunities to the park, providing an additional transitional pause point between completely outdoor to completely indoor. Some of the units fronting 2nd Street have angled bay windows to capture views to the park. Every design detail is specific to the local residents and their sense of space and place, providing familiarity, stability and safety.