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Designers Brighten Transitional Housing Site

Community room gets new look from interior design team

After the makeover, Crystal N. Small, job readiness coordinator/case manager, turns on a light in the the now warm and inviting room. photo by Diana Linsley (click for larger version)
August 10, 2011
Women at the transitional housing facility in the YWCA on West Pine Boulevard have a much more inviting space to watch TV, relax and visit with each other thanks to a dedicated group of interior design volunteers.

The Missouri-East Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) and a handful of high school and college students gave the facility's TV and community room a makeover in just two days on July 29 and 30.

"This is a community service project for our organization and we see it as a way to assist these women by making the community room of their facility more functional and more inviting," said Patrice Munden, who serves as the professional development director of the Missouri- East Chapter of ASID and owns an interior design company in St. Louis.

The Phyllis Wheatly Transitional Housing Program, located on the campus of St. Louis University, serves single homeless women ages 18 and older. Women can stay in the dormitory-style living facility for as long as 24 months. The program can serve up to 35 individuals at a time.

Before the makeover by the Missouri-East Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers, Nicole Hughes, transitional housing manager, shows how drab and uninviting the community room at the Phyllis Wheatly Transitional Housing facility was. photo by Diana Linsley (click for larger version)
"The focus is on economic and self sufficiency and empowerment," said Nicole Hughes, program manager for the Phyllis Wheatly Transitional Housing Program of the YWCA Metro St. Louis. "We provide on-site support services, a Wells Fargo financial literacy program, motivational and professional growth programs, career and employment seminars and more."

The Missouri-East chapter of ASID wanted to help after YWCA Metro St. Louis expressed a dire need for upgrades to the facility's interior.

When Munden and the students arrived to assess the situation, it was clear their services could be put to use. They also learned program participants weren't interacting with each other on a regular basis and the community room wasn't getting much use, mostly because it just wasn't a very nice place to be.

"The room was cold and sterile," Munden said, adding she was told by one of the program participants that the room reminded her of the basement where her boyfriend use to lock her up. "That took our breath away and we decided we wanted to do that room. We want to get them interacting together and give them a place to relax. We want to make it warm and inviting somewhere they like."

The warm, mocha-colored and light blue walls coupled with a bigger TV and new furniture is a stark contrast to the cold, dreary place it used to be. New blinds have replaced old bent ones and a bright red bulletin board attracts attention to upcoming seminars and workshops. There's also a bookshelf and a small desk where a laptop can be used.

The project was made possible through donations from local businesses and other ASID chapters, Munden said.

Hughes said the facility is grateful for the facelift.

"We're extremely excited," she said, adding the room hasn't been upgraded since the program moved there in 1993. "The furniture gets worn out, rotated and donated, but it's never been like you would decorate your own home."

Hughes believes now that the area is more inviting it will be a place where program participants enjoy being.

"Having a warm, homey place that is inviting will make people want to come together and be a family," she said.

Munden said she hopes the Missouri-East Chapter of ASID can continue its efforts to help make the building a brighter place to live. Many of the individual program participant rooms need new blinds and new lighting.

"I'm hoping this will be an ongoing project," she said. "We would like to take on other areas in the facility."

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