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Homed in Arizona: the architecture of emergency shelters

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Although much has been written about the abstract spaces of homelessness, relatively less has been documented on how the architecture of homeless shelters intersects with the homeless experience. Emergency shelters are the first places where homeless families begin their journey toward becoming "homed." Studies suggest that there is a middle-class bias in the design of emergency homeless shelters, but how do its spaces contribute to the route out of homelessness? Through narratives of homeless families, and observations of the places they occupy in an emergency shelter in Arizona, this article illustrates how they engage with the shelter's architecture to construct notions of home and homelessness. This study suggests that while homeless families try to achieve the psychological qualities of a "home" in the shelter, the materiality of the places in the shelter, where these qualities are acquired or negotiated, become important symbolic markers to becoming "homed."

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