This research addresses questions regarding the inclusivity of the homeless community within urban design, focusing on the high street as a foundation to this inquiry. The project will reframe and recharacterise a vulnerable communities’ position in urban design through focusing on three core themes of dignity, ownership and representation. Currently, elements of these themes have been taken into consideration by the Design Council CABE (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, 2006) and in the Localism Act (2011). However, surveys and consultation periods offered to certain groups with fixed addresses and access to modern technology breed a gap where considerations of dignity, ownership and representation of vulnerable communities, such as the homeless, are not included.
The three core themes, chosen for their shared value across vulnerable communities, will become a source of insight, challenge preconceptions and exceed common practical responses used in urban design. The study will engage with members of the homeless community, homeless community service providers, professionals within the urban regeneration sector and the wider community. Using participatory action research approaches, innovative methods will be identified and developed to question how dignity, ownership and representation of vulnerable groups can be included within the urban design system.
The economic decline of high streets started before COVID-19, but the rate of job loss and business closure accelerated as a result of the pandemic. This study is critical as there is urgent need for high streets to develop into a sustainable source of commerce, encouraging opportunities for mixed usage to build communities (Monk 2020). Where the homeless community is often paired with hostile architecture, designed to deter or exclude certain groups of people, this research intends to use methods such as cultural probes, mapping, model-making and codesign to present a holistic framing of the homeless community’s position in systemic urban design.