Trauma-informed design for permanent supportive housing: four case studies from Seattle and Denver

Christina Bollo, Amanda Donofrio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Single-site, permanent supportive housing (PSH) buildings with a Housing First approach have become an increasingly common solution to homelessness in many North American cities. Because people who have experienced long-term homelessness are also likely to have experienced trauma, trauma-informed care has become a key tenet of service providers working with residents in PSH. Trauma-informed design (TID), however, is newer. Relatively little research or theory exists about its implementation in PSH. This paper explores recently constructed, single-site, Housing First PSH buildings in the United States to understand how trauma-informed design principles are manifest in the common areas of those buildings. Data for the study consisted of interviews with social service providers, observations of the TID spaces, and photographs and floor plans of the buildings, and, for three buildings, minutes from the TID process meetings. The analysis revealed four approaches to trauma-informed PSH: 1) provide multiple common areas to maximize resident choice and safety; 2) separate spaces with walls but connect them with interior windows to provide safety; 3) supply a central third stair to encourage social engagement and 4) design places for future resident empowerment and voice. This research contributes a necessary, heretofore missing, spatialization to existing scholarship on PSH.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-250
Number of pages22
JournalHousing and Society
Issue number3
Early online dateOct 19 2021
StatePublished - 2022


  • Trauma-informed
  • design
  • housing first
  • permanent supportive housing
  • wellbeing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies


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