Merging Architecture and Recovery at a New Women's Rehab Project

A new Portland drug- and alcohol-free facility offers recovering women a permanent home emphasizing community and design.

By Nicole Cordier January 5, 2015 Published in the January 2015 issue of Portland Monthly

Can good design help addicts? Lifeworks Northwest, a mental health and addiction nonprofit, and Home Forward, Portland’s public-housing authority, hired development firm Gerding Edlen to create a place where women can battle addiction both in short-term treatment and long-term recovery. Holst Architecture designed the shared facility in Northeast Portland. Opened in July, 16 temporary units run by Lifeworks accommodate up to 36, while across a communal courtyard the Beech Street Apartments provide permanent family housing: Home Forward’s first drug- and alcohol-free facility. 

Holst Architecture’s design emphasizes clean aesthetics and common areas.

“The biggest barrier to leaving treatment is lacking permanent housing,” says Holst’s Dave Otte. “A stable environment across the courtyard provides consistency.” Direct access to the complex’s courtyard and playground maximizes fresh air, sunlight, and social contact. “That helps get people out of their rooms, and keeps residents from isolating themselves,” Otte says. 

Shelley Marchesi, Home Forward’s public-affairs director, points out that any family headed by people participating in recovery is eligible for housing in her organization's half of the complex. But about half of the apartments’ current households did make the short move from the other side of the complex. “I’ve seen a lot of apartments,” Marchesi says, “and I can say that these units really feel like homes.”  

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