Although veteran homelessness in the Washington, DC area has decreased in recent years, approximately 500 veterans are among the 6,000 people without a place to sleep on any given night. Operating on the principle that homelessness is a preventable circumstance, an unprecedented collaboration between public, private, philanthropic, and nonprofit partners has resulted in the John and Jill Ker Conway Residence—a concrete step forward in the fight to end veteran homelessness in the District of Columbia.
This 14-story project, comprises 124 units, with 60 units of permanent supportive housing for formerly homeless veterans, 47 units of affordable housing for tenants at or below 60% area median income, and 17 units of affordable housing for tenants at or below 30% area median income. Programmed to house management offices, a lounge, fitness center, conference space, and ground floor retail, the John and Jill Ker Conway Residence is also integrated with on-site support services to address the social, medical, and emotional needs of its residents.
The design of structure engages its historic context with a slim, modulated massing that takes advantage of views to the north and south, including the U.S. Capitol and Washington’s monuments, and also provides outdoor terraces and increased daylighting to the units’ interiors. The extensive use of glazing throughout maximizes natural light in common corridors, enlivening interior spaces and connecting residents to the larger urban context.
A fundamental challenge of this project is the unique nature of the user; the veteran homeless population has higher incidences of physical and psychological disability, which can be exacerbated in inhospitable physical environments. Extensive research was conducted into design strategies for Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders in order to best accommodate these residents, and solutions range from the fundamental to the more detailed and technological. Creating a healthy and inspiring environment is at the crux of the design and is critical for the environmental sensitivities of residents transitioning out of homelessness and back into society.