Re-habit: Transforming Abandoned Big Box Retailers to Housing for Homeless

You may have seen Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, the internet sensation from the last time the entertainment industry was halted. During the three-month writer’s strike, a handful of celebrities came together to make the cult classic web series. And who can forget Captain Hammer’s iconic line: “I hate the homeless. . .ness problem that plagues our city.”

But all jokes aside, homelessness is a serious issue. A White House Executive study, released in September 2019, states that

Over half a million people go homeless on a single night in the United States. Approximately 65 percent are found in homeless shelters, and the other 35 percent—just under 200,000—are found unsheltered on our streets (in places not intended for human habitation, such as sidewalks,parks, cars, or abandoned buildings).

That’s where “re-habit” comes in (1, 2)

Recycling Stores For The Homeless

The California firm KTGY Architecture+Planning wants to create spaces with the homeless in mind. The company’s research and development team suggested the idea of turning abandoned retail big-box stores into places where homeless people could safely sleep. That’s not all, however. The location would still maintain shopping areas, albeit, on a smaller scale. Additionally, though, there would also be “sleeping pods, apartments, a courtyard, a dining hall, and spaces for job training, recreation,” and other essential services. The residents would perform maintenance chores and run a rooftop garden. The produce would feed the residents, as well as producing enough for small food shops. (3)

The Benefits

Marissa Kasdan, KTGY’s director of design believes that

“with big box stores such as Macy’s, J.C. Penney and Sears closing in record numbers, repurposing such vacant spaces becomes increasingly necessary. At the same time, the housing affordability crisis and other factors are driving up demand to house and service homeless individuals. Re-Habit offers one adaptive re-use solution for multiple problems.”

The company is aware of the aversion many have to the idea of housing homeless individuals in their spaces. Words like “squatting” spring to mind. Their website states that “building projects dedicated to the homeless population can be controversial, it is a unique opportunity to be part of a housing model for social good.” (3, 4)

The Design

Their floor plan design sleeps 344 people (in a typically-sized store of 86,000 square feet), in addition to all the additional shops, recreation, and other facilities. There is a homelessness center as well that offers such services as counseling and job training.  “Residents who exhibit progress in the housing and counseling programs can receive job training and work in one of the many, on-site retail spaces, ranging from thrift stores to coffee shops,” says the KTGY website. “The retail stores range from 1,000 sq. ft. to 10,500 sq. ft. and a photovoltaic façade design supports energy efficiency in the building.” (4)


The White House report says that 47 percent of the homeless population lives in California. This makes KTGY the perfect company, given its California location. Additionally, their counseling services will help address many of the root causes of homelessness. These include “severe mental illness, substance abuse problems, histories of incarceration, low incomes, and weak social connections.” (2)

The post Re-habit: Transforming Abandoned Big Box Retailers to Housing for Homeless appeared first on Healthy Holistic Living.

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