Architect: Zimmerman Architectural Studios
Owner: Sojourner Family Peace Center
Contractor: Mortenson Construction
Domestic violence is an epidemic in this country and Sojourner Family Peace Center is emerging to combat the problem in Milwaukee. Sojourner expands on the proven, collaborative Family Justice Center paradigm, designed to accommodate multiple service providers in one location in order to provide victims of domestic violence and their families access to integrated, streamlined and cost efficient services. Sojourner Family Peace Center is the largest co-located child and family violence advocacy center in the country and serves as the reference standard as communities around the world as they shape their own Family Justice Centers.
The architectural design team established a project mission based on the studied principles of the Family Justice Center concept. Core project values are built upon words repeatedly heard in programming meetings with administrators and counselors; develop a sanctuary for victims of domestic violence and create a place where Sojourner and their partner organizations can effectively administer wrap-around services in a safe and dignified atmosphere.
In addition to Sojourner programming (crisis housing, system advocacy and individual support), the Family Peace Center accommodates a number of co-located and visiting partner organizations and service providers including Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Milwaukee Police Department Sensitive Crimes Unit, Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office, child protective services, wellness and healthcare. Families receiving services at Sojourner have access to a wide array of services to support their efforts to achieve healing, self-sufficiency and freedom from abuse in a safe and supportive environment.
Privacy is of paramount concern and fosters an “on-stage/off-stage” design attitude toward security for clients and staff. This approach informs the design process and is reinforced through a hierarchy of sub-lobbies off of the main street corridor. Victims are made comfortable in private rooms appointed with living room furnishings. Children and families seeking help from the Children’s Hospital Child Advocacy Center have similar private counseling rooms surrounding a light-filled shared play area with exam and child interview rooms near their parents.
The off-stage circuit of corridors allows counselors and staff to circulate between office areas and the victim counseling rooms discretely. These back of house staff areas and shared amenities like the Partner Café are intended to foster a true collaborative atmosphere amongst co-located agencies, enhancing the services each individual organization provides victims.
The nurturing theme continues into the emergency shelter. Shared living rooms and dining room, with expansive views over Milwaukee’s downtown, surround a reception desk strategically positioned as a hub with views around the entire shelter. From this central location, Sojourner staff works closely with victims to rebuild their connection with the community in a warm and welcoming environment. Mothers and children have access to a playground, laundry, workout room, serenity chapel, day-care and a nursery all within the secure shelter.
22 Bedrooms named after Sojourner’s family accommodate 56 people and range in size from singles to family rooms. Passage doors between adjoining rooms afford flexibility to house large and small families with a modicum of privacy. Porches outside each family room allow for social interaction and discreet access to bathrooms.
Sojourner Family Peace Center will host the International Family Justice Center Conference in the spring of 2017. Counselors from all over the world will convene in Milwaukee to network, share best-practices and visit a working model that embodies fundamental Family Justice Center principles. Sojourner Family Peace Center is influencing the Milwaukee community with positive solutions to domestic violence from a building that serves as an effective medium for victim services.
Photos: Greg Gent Studios Inc.