Scattergood Foundation

Advancing Innovative Strategies for Change in Behavioral Health


Intervention Description
Emily R. Dodson
Overall Description: 
MyWall is a circulating archive of art, photographs and stories shared by the occupants in the Overflow Rooms at Jane Addams Place. The trauma-informed product has a dual-nature, acting as a wall and sitting area with open circulation space during the day, and a bed during the night. The dual-nature of the product reflects the shelter occupants: these women and children are labeled as homeless yet defy the stigma of that label through their resilience in adverse times. Overflow Room inhabitants poignantly reflect this duality as they are only in the shelter for one night. The design of MyWall aims to palliate the unpredictability of their transient lifestyles. The organized shelving surrounding the bedframe provides a niche for personal belongings as well as plexiglass slips and built-in frames which create a home for their own art, journal entries, advice, stories or printed photographs; they have the opportunity to reveal or conceal as much as they want about themselves. MyWall comes in two orientations, vertically mounted beds that reach up into the unused high ceiling space and the side-mounted beds. When the beds are tucked away the product acts as seating and workspace with glass-covered tables for slipping in personal artifacts. The side-mounted bed has a trundle bed below with an angled divider, providing privacy for both occupants as they sleep. The divider is also clad in plexiglass for personalization. The daytime seating is cushioned and those pillows can be used for sleep with clean pillowcases, adding to the duality of the product. Since the amount of possessions are limited to the homeless they have access to donated computers and printers at the shelter to print their contribution to the space while they can also look for work and other shelters online. About 5 MyWall products can fit in each space.
S: MyWall aims to provide a personalized space for homeless shelter occupants. The bed with shelving is a built product that satisfies the need for a safe bed and home far more than a bare mattress on a dusty floor. As for the motion of the product as the seating area becomes a sleeping area, the bed operates on a pivot that allows the bed to fall down in a gentle, controlled manner safe for all users and staff. T&T: Leaving a piece of yourself behind makes you vulnerable to the judgment of others. You are putting trust in the hands of the people who will view your art, photos, and life story. The transparency of the participants is part of MyWalls mission: to learn from others and grow from their contribution in a goal-oriented environment. The occupant is also trusting the staff to show them where to sleep, how to safely operate the bed, and knowing that they added something personal to the space. PS: MyWall promotes a circulating archival network of the stories of “trauma survivors”. C&M: MyWall reflects a relationship between all people who have inhabited the shelter, whether or not they left a piece of themselves behind. It condones a partnership beyond interpersonal relationships to one with yourself, as well as with others. The therapeutic ability to reflect on your own situation makes it easier to share your experiences with others, and vice versa. EVC: The unifying ability of sharing traumatic experiences in any way is what MyWall is all about, not only with people you’re immediately acquainted with, but with an entire homeless shelter network and community. CHGI: MyWall addresses racial, ethnic, cultural needs and personal accounts as well as historical trauma and confronted gender issues through the voice of the people experiencing these firsthand.
The MyWall product is original in design but the concept of a wall that becomes a bed is also referred to as a Murphy Bed, or wall bed, which can come pre-made from a number of stores including Costco at prices ranging from $250-$1000+ per bed made from plywood for durability, cost-efficiency, and ability to be stained and customized. A trundle bed concept also already exists. In order to build the MyWall product no existing or patented tools are required. The MyWall product can be attached at the wall but the product is also on wheels for variability in layout, programmatic needs, repairs, and cleaning. The angled table/privacy panel, dual-purposed swing shelf and kick stand on the vertically mounted MyWall, plexiglass details for artifacts, and the tilted bin-shelves for larger hidden items are all original detailed considerations.
The impact of the MyWall product can be measured by a cost-benefit analysis and a before & after examination. Before MyWall the Overflow Rooms are bleak, disorganized, unidentifiable spaces that lack a programmatic function other than, quite literally, ‘overflow space’. Delegating a family as ‘overflow’ can be psychologically disheartening, making a homeless person feel even more displaced, unwanted, and lacking. MyWall strives for people to feel that they have a voice in this world, a story to tell, and a difference to make. At times leaving a photo, a poem, a journal entry, or a drawing may feel like a shot in the dark, but one never knows who they might impact. The staff must also realize this as they explain the capabilities occupants have when interacting with MyWall. Victims of adversity feel that they have no control, no say, or no place in their surroundings. MyWall is a haven for expression, personalization, sharing, and giving in a judgment-free, safe, shelter environment. With MyWall in use, the occupants leave the shelter feeling uplifted, oriented, determined, and inspired to leave their next mark in the world on their journey to a better life.
The Overflow Rooms must be accurately measured in order to fit the MyWall product in the most efficient manner possible, which may involve extra planning and alterations to the existing design. Material needs to be accumulated, whether through donation or bought. The materials are mainly plywood sheets, metal joint pieces, and added mattresses, fabrics, staining alterations, etc. Organizations that volunteer-build as community service can help with labor. MyWall is utilized in the space assuming the shelter occupants are able to access the computers and printers at Jane Addam’s Place to search the internet, print images and photographs, and look up anything else they need to achieve their goals. The product will be ready for implementation within shipping time of the materials which can take up to a week.
Estimated Cost of Production: 
Do the production costs decrease as the number of units produced increases?: 
Space and Staffing Required: 
MyWall needs the space of a room for overnight use, like the Overflow Room. What’s interesting about the Overflow Room is it also has a daytime function for relaxation, computer use, community gathering, therapy, or quiet space. If an 18 year-old son wants to spend the night away from his mother, he can sleep on the MyWall product in the separate room away from the long-term shelter residents. Sleepover programming events can also take place with the MyWall product in the space, such as events for children of a certain age. Minimal staffing is required for the product other than to show the occupant how to pull down and push up the bed and explaining the freedom they have to express themselves with the product.
Does your product require training of shelter staff to use appropriately?: 
Training Details: 
As long as the product can hold the weight of a person safely it will last. The more it is loved by artwork—and even carvings and scratches—the more authentic the MyWall is in expressing the actions of its past inhabitants. If a person purposefully removes a shelf or breaks a piece of wood off its hinge for whatever reason, funds can be raised or donations can be made through advertising, initiatives for quality sleeping space, etc. Donators will be empathetic toward this outreach. Re-purposed lumber is a sustainable, cheap option.
Would your product be well-suited for other shelter environments? Yes! The MyWall product is beneficial to any shelter environment where there is enough room for individual beds. If spaces are more suited to smaller, cot-like beds, then the MyWall shelving and framing can be scaled down or altered, personalized to the existing space, as long as there is a surface for self-expression and a surface for sleeping.
The impact of MyWall can be measured by surveying its users as well as through empirical evidence. A questionnaire can be left at each table and copies on shelves with pencils for “overflow” occupants as well as staff and shelter occupants in the bedrooms upstairs. Everyone has the freedom to interact and contribute to the success of MyWall. Staff and therapists can report on the changes they see whether by evaluating what is left on the product by the occupants or by asking the occupant’s themselves as long as it doesn’t hinder or invade their privacy to the extent that it taints the genuine feedback. MyWall’s impact can also be measured by variability: filling one room with the product and leaving another room for “overflow” occupants as it currently is with mattresses on the floor. The quality of space and quality of the stay can be assessed from there on, asking the occupants questions by providing surveys or asking them directly, as well as through empirical evidence. This cross-benefit analysis will certainly determine whether the value of the space, measured by quality of space and experience, is improved, stays the same, or remains unchanged.