Date of Award


Degree Type

Creative Project

Degree Name

Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA)


Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning

Committee Chair(s)

Keith Christensen


Keith Christensen


Carlos Licon


David Anderson


Wayne Niederhauser


Homelessness is one of the most pressing humanitarian issues facing the country today. Lack of affordable housing, among many other complicating factors, have led to many cities scrambling to find both short-, middle-, and long-term solutions to the issue. The Covid-19 pandemic added a disruption in services, critical record-keeping, and data-gathering, which has further confounded experts looking for an effective path forward. As it stands, there is a significant gap in academic research addressing best practices for shelter site design, particularly as it relates to landscape. The role of landscape and greenspace within and around a shelter is not well studied.

As part of a stakeholder’s request of the Utah State University’s Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning, this thesis work has conducted a design research project to illuminate design guidelines for successful low barrier shelter site plans. Appropriate programming was defined through collaboration with the stakeholder, formal and informal interviews with experts, case studies from around North America, a literature review[MN1] , and design development informed by academic studies of spatial psychology.

The design exploration yielded nine guidelines when designing a site plan for a low barrier shelter that are meant to nurture trust, community buy-in, self-worth, dignity, and meaningful employment among its residents. Although this project researched all the essential programming necessary for a shelter and resource center, the guidelines go beyond traditional programming requirements and add up to a kit-of-parts that can more effectively use space and landscape for favorable outcomes on a shelter site.

This project is an initial step; however, further research should continue to explore low-income housing case studies, spatial psychology, and homeless systems policy to continue to integrate landscape architecture into the effort to alleviate suffering brought on by homelessness.