Mobile Refuge Rooms - DJDS
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Client: Alameda County Department of Probation

Program Partners: Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS), Elevator Works, Laney College Restoring our Communities Program, Laney College FabLab, College of Alameda Fab Lab, FabCity Oakland

Project Type: Mobile

Status: Prototyping and Product Development


Reentry housing provides access to job training, trauma-informed education, mental health support, and a place to rest and call home. Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS) and DJDS recognized the need to reenvision the living component of supportive housing in order to balance the high cost of construction and support the volume of men and women who are reentering their communities from prison. The two organizations came together to consider the programming and places needed to support 40 men returning to Oakland from prison. Through a two-month community engagement process, a more cost-effective and dignified solution emerged that would provide the men with the privacy and spatial support they needed; this took the form of Mobile Refuge Rooms.  

Each room is equipped with a murphy bed, a desk, and storage for clothing and valuables. Box components and a sliding door are assembled on a leveled base to create the unique enclosure. These units can be deployed in clustered configurations within a space, and can be adapted to meet each individual’s personal preferences. 

Partners for fabrication include Elevator Works and formerly-incarcerated students from Laney College’s Restoring our Communities (ROC) program, who built the first prototypes at the Laney College and College of Alameda FabLab facilities. The prototype unit is located at a re-entry facility in East Oakland, and individuals have cycled in and out of the unit since January of 2020. We’ve heard positive feedback from them about how the experience impacted their re-entry process.  In addition to providing living quarters, the Mobile Refuge Room effort also provides a workforce development opportunity in both digital and physical fabrication for formerly-incarcerated men and women. 

In May of 2020, we completed a 15-week program with Autodesk Pro-Bono Impact to improve the design and ease of transport and assembly of the unit.  Neal’s CNC has completed production of our third (gamma) prototype, and there is a fourth (delta) prototype to follow as we continue to improve the design.