Houston will soon have 50 new residential units for youth leaving the foster care system and entering adulthood. The Houston Alumni and Youth (HAY) Center has broken ground on its 59,000-sf campus, with completion expected by July 2024. The HAY Center is a nonprofit program of Harris County Resources for Children and Adults and for foster youth ages 14-25 transitioning to adulthood in the Houston community.
Designed by Gensler to feel like a college campus, The HAY Center includes 50 efficiency-style apartment units with full kitchens as well as washers and dryers.Five of the units can house a single parent and one child. Connecting the apartments, a community space also offers a full kitchen, plus a flexible area that can be used for studying and for movie nights.
Input from The HAY Center’s youth informed the design of the two-building campus. Their input indicated the design should focus on five themes: home, empowerment, community, wellness, and security. Here’s a quick rundown of how Gensler’s design addresses each theme:
- Home: All activities take place in an environment that feels like home. To that end, the center features community kitchens, small and large meeting spaces, comfortable furnishings, and entrances that make everyone feel welcome.
- Empowerment: Youth are empowered by signing a lease, receiving a key, and having a place of their own.
- Community: The center is part of an established community with public transportation access, employment opportunities, and green spaces that promote a sense of belonging.
- Wellness: The design promotes physical and mental wellness. Onsite services include case workers and mental health services and other facilities available to all HAY Center youth, not only those who live on campus.
- Security: Hay Center youth do not have to depend on someone else for a place to live, and they have control of their own space. Campus security features have been based on input from the youth and industry professionals.
The project is targeting LEED Silver certification.