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In the State of Georgia, human trafficking awareness and prevention have been a priority for the state’s First Lady Marty Kemp. Making combating this crisis one of her key missions, she engaged the Georgia State Finance and Investment Commission (GSFIC) — in collaboration with the Department of Juvenile Justice and Department of Mental Health — to launch an initiative that addresses the pressing issue comprehensively. To help youth affected by human trafficking cope with trauma and safely re-integrate, GSFIC took urgent action to build a second residential intake center for the State of Georgia. To see the fast-paced project through, NELSON Worldwide, a reliable and frequent GSFIC partner, was brought on as a full-service Architect of Record, with a scope encompassing interior, architecture, and engineering services.

With an emphasis on creating a safe and secure space for those affected, the new facility in Gwinnett County houses and provides care for exploited children. Working closely with the Department of Juvenile Justice and the Department of Mental Health, the team created a concept to provide treatment in a comfortable and supportive environment. The facility includes 26 beds while providing residents access to health and human services.

The design focused on balancing security with a welcoming and warm atmosphere, achieved through natural finishes such as wood elements and warm paint colors, including a consistent pop of emerald green covering walls throughout the facility. An emphasis was placed on access to natural light. A large atrium became a distinctive feature, acting as a central gathering place adorned with lounge furniture, wood finishes, and ample daylight spilling through a collection of windows – contributing to a more residential feel. The atrium leads to a diverse mix of outdoor spaces, including a courtyard and horticultural area, which were designed for various classes and activities. The facility also features small group spaces, a life skills classroom for teaching basic skills like cooking and financial literacy, and a recreational gym. Project partners actively participated in creating a home-like feeling, organizing blanket drives, and providing items like teddy bears, for the living spaces to ensure comfort.

Lessons learned from the first residential intake center influenced the design, pinpointing the flexibility of multipurpose spaces for various mental health treatments as a necessity. Sensitive areas, particularly the intake process, received meticulous attention to balance privacy and initial assessment needs. The facility is also designed in alignment with The Georgia Peach Green Building Rating System and to meet LEED Silver standards.

Collaborative efforts played a pivotal role in navigating challenges, including the impact of COVID-19 on the schedule and budget, with the team acting quickly to pivot when needed to ensure the timely and successful completion of the facility – all without sacrificing quality or effectiveness.

Focused on creating a supportive space for youth affected by human trafficking, NELSON’s design offers a harmonious blend of security and warmth, while prioritizing the flexibility of multipurpose spaces to accommodate diverse mental health treatments. The success of this collective endeavor shines through in the positive impact it promises to make on the lives of the individuals it serves and exemplifies the power of collaboration in addressing critical societal issues with compassion and innovation.