Women in Need
Women in Need (WIN) has provided shelter for homeless women and their families for more than 25 years. When we visited WIN, with Susan Sack of the Robin Hood Foundation, to see the Junius Street shelters we were enormously moved. The staff, the quality of the housing, the support and the level of commitment are beyond words. This is a group that has housed more than 10,000 women and children in a single year, and does it every year with a growing commitment and increased capacity.
Until Robin Hood funded a new playground the families had little more than a parking lot for play. And when the design of the new playground began without the sense of identity and message that WIN and Robin Hood thought was essential they called us. We helped with the elements that allow it to speak to the clients and their children.
We designed the rubberized play surface to spell out PLAY for the clients in the buildings above the play area, not just to remind them of it’s purpose, but as a message about children. PLAY. Their lives had been changed to allow the possibility of safe, supervised, constructive play. The scale of the letters was intended to address the clients and residents; the fact that it is visible from Google Earth just makes us smile!
For the second phase of the project we added, under the shelter of the new parking deck, the word TOGETHER.
As in 'play together'. Or just 'be together'. Or 'together we can make a difference'.
The area under the deck is a shaded, cool and weather protected play area for small children. Events can take place at night, like movies and games. And the reminder that this is a space to be together is always present.
A playground at WIN is not just a place for recreation. It is a carefully supervised facility, with children separated by age group but visually connected in a large space. Both for ease of observation and for spectators watching teens play basketball we proposed a shaded central area to replace the tiny trees originally proposed. While the trees would have eventually been wonderful, the 25 year wait for effective shade didn’t seem appropriate for clients whose average stay is less than one year. These kids only have a short summer season to enjoy the playground, and now they do it under a cool trellised canopy. The trellis is an island in the middle of what would otherwise be an unbearably hot play area.
The Robin Hood Foundation
We are committed to work for the public good. And Robin Hood has been a constant inspiration for worthwhile projects to devote our time and passion for change. Robin Hood deserves everyone's support. This remarkable organization raises, and spends, between $50M and $100M every year, and all its administrative costs are fully covered by its board. The result, along with professionalized evaluation criteria, make Robin Hood one of the most effective non-profits in New York and the entire country. Whatever you can give will make a real change in the lives of New Yorkers who most need a hand.
Thanks to Robin Hood and Kevin Chu and Jessica Paul for images