Covenant House California operates a short-term emergency shelter for youth, ages 18 through 20. A youth may walk in and secure an available bed 24 hours a day. The shelter provides personal case management, three meals a day, clothing, employment assistance, psychological assessment and treatment, medical intervention, HIV testing and counseling, substance abuse counseling and referral to other community resources. Some youth are referred home after a few days; others stay for sixty or more days while obtaining employment and saving for an apartment. The average stay for a youth is 21 days.
The design concept for Covenant House emanates from the client’s program concept of “Sanctuary”. The Covenant House program provides a safe and nurturing environment - a sanctuary - for kids who join the program and choose to leave the streets. The concept of sanctuary is given form in the site plan by the central courtyard, reminiscent of California missions, which anchors the site and on to which all buildings are oriented: a Crisis Care Center; a Transitional Living Center; and an Amphitheater.
Both the Crisis Care Center and the Transitional Living Center are connected to the central courtyard by internal courts. All buildings are connected by arcades which, in turn, define the central courtyard, create a sense of place and theatre, and provide informal seating.
The central courtyard focuses on a basketball court and is designed to house both informal conversation and formal gatherings. A small Amphitheater provides a focal point and a place for formal and informal gatherings, while the elevator tower at the south side balances the composition and announces the Transitional Living Building. The system of internal courtyards is connected to the outside and announced by a tapering vault at Fernwood and Western, the major intersection.
The buildings’ materials are simple and straightforward to match the program. Textured stucco is used at all walls and the roofs are painted turned metal. Columns are painted concrete. Deep color tones (terra cottas, ochres, purples and yellows) accentuate the form of each building on the site and impart a warmth and richness to the composition.