Clothing Closet Project
This project was an attempt to help the homeless in the New Haven area.
The team realized that in addition to being a food desert it was also a "clothing desert." With the closing of the Salvation Army earlier that year, there was only one option for free or consignment clothing in New Haven. This was St. Paul and St. James Episcopal Church, also the home of the program Loaves and Fishes.
Our main community partner was PJ's church (St. Paul and St. James). They hoped to redesign their existing clothing donation program to better serve their users and the influx of need.
We also worked in accordance with Yale's Hunger and Homelessness Action Project, who wanted to put a donation bin on old campus and set up a project that will maintain the clothing closet for years to come.
Immersion and Research
The first step was to visit the clothing closet. We took pictures of the space, walked through the general process and looked at the storage rooms in the back. We then talked to Alex (the Pastor of the church) about the purpose and mission of the closet as well as what type of experience he wants the users and volunteers to have.
We then immersed ourselves in the situation, we volunteered at both a sorting session and a Saturday morning as the shop workers in the clothing closet.
Analysis and Design
We identified three major areas that needed to be redesigned for a better user experience.
The sorting system: it is hard to identify correctly sized clothing quickly, and therefore people take too much time and clog up the space
The space: the space itself has a poor outline, and adingy feeling, adding a negative atmosphere to what could be a very positive experience
Volunteering: the volunteers very rarely know what they are doing or how they could be of help. A pre-designed set of jobs and instructions could easily help.
We went through multiple iterations on the design. We would map out how we thought the racks, tables and desk could go together and then asked Alex for his opinion.
We researchedwhat principles most stores use while designing layouts, and then began to talk about what renovations could fit within our budget.
Before and After
Our Design and Conclusion
We stayed over spring break to renovate the entire room. We tore up the carpets and knocked out the wooden shelving to reveal a brick wall. We put in new movable and stackable shelving uints that opened up the space and also allowed for a better flow of people.
We wrote up a list and descriptions of each of the volunteer jobs and presented them to the head volunteer as a suggestion, and posted lamanated copies up in the sorting room and behind the checkout desk.
We held a small dedication ceremony at the end of the year to present the new closet to the friends of the closets' founder Joan. We renamed the closet Joan's closet.
A clothing donation box was placed in Yale University's old campus near Dwight Hall and is currently under teh custody of YHHAP.