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The SAY Dream Center
A Renovation Creates a Group Home for Disadvantaged Kids



A hospital campus that sat unused in Santa Rosa, California, was donated by its owner to the nonprofit group Social Advocates for Youth who wanted to use it to house homeless and former foster youth. In order to prepare it for that purpose, several entities, including Firma Design Group, gave their time and energy in the redesign efforts. Firma's vice president of planning and landscape architecture Michael Cook estimates the team's contribution was worth over $100,000.

SAY - Social Advocates for Youth - is a nonprofit that provides housing, counseling and career services to youth and families throughout Sonoma County in California. A few years back, the organization's CEO Matt Martin approached Sutter Health in the city of Santa Rosa to ask if they would be interested in donating the shuttered Warrack Hospital campus to be converted to a shelter for homeless and former foster youth. Sutter agreed, and with approval from the city council and the planning commission, the project was set in motion.

The idea of re-purposing a hospital to house people was deemed as an ingenious idea since they are divided into small living spaces with lavatories, and common areas such as kitchens, laundry facilities, meeting rooms, and offices. This former hospital also included courtyards and gardens.

One of the companies that got involved was Firma Design Group of nearby Petaluma. They were asked by the architect in charge of the project to participate with a promise that it would be "one for the books".

The scope of their work included the design and the renderings for the outdoor courtyard, and assisting with the landscape design for the rest of the facility. Firma also worked with an artist to complete the installation of an art piece, and were part of the facilities committee, which oversaw construction in coordination with the City of Santa Rosa.

According to the company's vice president of planning and landscape architecture Michael Cook, their donated time valued at over $30,000.

"The most difficult challenge that we had to deal with is the ADA requirements that were imposed on the project after the project and design were approved," he recalls. "We worked with the civil engineer and the representative team to complete the installation per City of Santa Rosa requirements."

Cook described the pace as fast and furious to complete the needed project as quickly as fast as possible.

The Dream Center includes housing for up to 63 homeless and former foster youth 18-24 years old, employment and counseling services, and SAY's administrative offices.

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August 21, 2019, 1:39 am PDT

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