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Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen (DESK) is a soup kitchen that provides daily suppers to individuals experiencing homelessness and/or food insecurity in New Haven, CT. DESK aims to provide services that promote health, community, and equity, but within the current framework of operation, guests who frequent DESK who have a history of trauma or ongoing experience with trauma may have unmet needs. Medical literature has established that trauma is more than an event, as it influences how an individual perceives and interacts with other people and other environments. However, there is little work on how Trauma-Informed Care model can be implemented in social service settings to transform spatial design and ultimately humanize and value the experiences of those who have experienced trauma. This project aimed to characterize how DESK can better serve its guests and identify best trauma-informed practices for carrying out its mission. Our team made recommendations rooted in trauma-informed spatial design that to address these concerns. Using Trauma-Informed Care to transform spatial design for food assistance programs is an innovative strategy for improving the quality and delivery of social services. The findings from this project will help DESK secure support from local and municipal stakeholders as it redefines itself as a model of trauma-informed care in food assistance programs.

Publication Date

Spring 2019


Public health, trauma-informed care, trauma, food assistance, Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen, New Haven, Connecticut


Environmental Public Health

A Trauma-Informed Atmospheric Assessment for Food Assistance Programs