A Newly Designed Women’s Shelter Opens Its Doors in Portland

Rose Haven’s new light, airy and cheerful space draws on trauma-informed design principles

By Michelle Harris March 8, 2022

A volunteer works on the centerpiece mural at the new Rose Haven Day Shelter and Community Center for those who have experienced domestic violence.

Once, the Rose Haven Day Shelter and Community Center—a landmark shelter for those fleeing domestic violence—was located in the distinctly uninspiring basement of the First Immanuel Lutheran Church. 

Then came the pandemic and all its upheavals: the basement space closed, with Rose Haven providing meals to go, first aid, and other services to their community. 

Fast forward two years, and Rose Haven is reopening in a serene new space, built upon the principles of trauma-informed design, at the nearby space in NW Portland once occupied by World Cup Coffee shop—on International Women’s Day, no less. 

Every detail in the center—which works with women, children and gender non-conforming people—has been thoughtfully curated, starting with design by local firm Gensler Portland that emphasizes inclusiveness and well-being.  

An 87-foot flower mural wraps around the newly expanded center while sound-absorbing lights hang from high ceilings above the open-space concept.  

“A holistic approach to color was used throughout the space,” says Jay Koback, Design Director at Gensler Portland. “The colors for the flower mural were selected intentionally to evoke a sense of calm and optimism for Rose Haven’s guests.” (The colors in question? Thirty-five different shades of pinks, purples, oranges, and grays, underpinned by a peaceful muted green palette.) 

The newly expanded shelter, which measures 9,700 square feet, now includes a variety of services such as laundry, a technology room, prep kitchen, a craft room, and a medical facility with UV lighting that can change to fit a guest’s current mood.  

“In creating the design, we took into account how color affects you, how light affects you, how the layout of a facility affects you, and how all of these things kind of work together. It’s really a beautiful balance to come up with a space that is uplifting but not too in your face,” says Rose Haven Executive Director Katie O’Brien.  

For most of Rose Haven’s guests, this is the first time in two years they’ve had a safe space to come to and feel at ease, a welcome respite for homeless women and marginalized people prone to experiencing harassment on the streets. Kelli, a longtime Rose Haven community member, was the first person to walk through the door when the shelter opened on Tuesday.  

“This represents freedom,” she says. “I come here because there’s no other place to go and I can feel good about me. And the community here is the biggest part.”

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