Contact Us

Pallet S2: Built by Lived Experience

February 15, 2024

All the details that come together to make our new S2 shelter line were inspired and informed by feedback from our own lived experience workforce.

One of Pallet’s foundational elements is our lived experience workforce. As a fair chance employer, we provide opportunities for people who have experienced homelessness, recovery from substance use disorder, and involvement in the criminal legal system to build their futures.

We often talk about how our approach to designing Pallet shelters and implementing them within a healing community village model is informed by those with lived experience. In developing our S2 shelter line within the lens of trauma-informed design, these voices were crucial to ensure that our shelters provide private, safe, and dignified living spaces for displaced populations and encourage positive housing transitions.

There are many seemingly minute considerations that influenced the design of our S2 Sleeper and EnSuite models. To capture how important these details truly are for village residents, we gathered Pallet’s first Lived Experience Cohort—Josh, Alan, Sarah, and Dave—to describe in their own words how each design aspect is significant for anyone who has experienced the trauma of displacement.


Significant changes in aesthetic, functionality, and fixtures make the S2 line a more comfortable living space overall. Smooth wall panels make the interior of each shelter more welcoming.

“The biggest thing is the aluminum [interior flashing] is gone,” says Josh. “So it feels like a home. It seems like someone took time to make it.”

When Josh was in Sacramento on Pallet’s California Roadshow, he noticed how attendees felt while touring S2 shelters.

“Almost everyone who walked in said, ‘This feels very warm. It’s so inviting to walk in here, it’s so open.’”

Dave comments on the effect this feeling would have on someone who has experienced homelessness.

“One of the most disturbing things to me when I was out there was coming to that realization: ‘I don’t have a f***ing home anymore,’” he recalls. “And to go into something that feels like a home, that you can call your little home, that’s really nice. That’s huge.”

Residential windows are another significant detail that Sarah notes.

“They give more lighting, so it doesn’t feel like a jail cell,” she says.

“They’re way better windows,” Dave adds. “[Residents] have a big, nice window to look out of now.”

Installing larger beds was also a noted concern, and the Twin XL is a more inclusive option.

“I think the larger sized mattresses are great,” she says. “Now villages can get twin sheets and covers and protective sheets that fit. And the fact that these new mattresses are waterproof, even the threading on the seams.”

The S2 EnSuite is Pallet’s first sleeping shelter with integrated hygiene facilities. Josh says the opportunity to have this kind of space with access to his own bathroom would have been a significant aid in his recovery journey.

“If I moved into the EnSuite, that would have blown my mind,” he quips. “If I was coming off the street or living in my Explorer like I was at the time, and moved into that, I might have been clean way sooner. Because it would’ve given me some hope that somebody cared.”

Safety Features

Pallet’s in-house engineering team created the S2 shelter line with safety at its core. In addition to the structurally insulated panels that offer durability and robust wind, fire, and snow load ratings, the elimination of exposed hardware in the interior is another detail that ensures safety for residents of all ages and walks of life.

Input from our lived experience team and feedback from Pallet village residents across the country also led to tweaks to the included fixtures, reducing the likelihood of essential safety functions being disarmed or damaged.

“We were pushing to get a cage over the smoke alarm, or something to prevent people from taking them off,” Sarah remembers. “Now [with the hardwired connection] you can’t shut off the power to the smoke alarm.”

The consideration that displacement affects different communities—from single residents with pets to families with young children—also influenced changes in other design elements of the S2 that may have gone unnoticed otherwise.

“I think the electrical panel is better: now we have the breakers on the outside and the plugs on the inside,” Josh adds. “So it keeps you from wanting to easily tamper with it.”


Offering a more customizable layout and built-in wire shelving in the S2 line creates a dignified space for every Pallet shelter resident.

“Having a place to hang up clothes, that’s something I heard a lot when I was talking to residents in California,” Sarah comments. “That was a huge improvement, because if you’re still having to constantly live out of your bags and your suitcase, you’re not moving forward to get out of that survival mode.”

The ability to freely move the bed and desk is also a significant detail for people who have experienced institutional or congregate shelter settings.

“If I saw the bed set up in between two windows, I would say, ‘There’s absolutely no way I would pass out in between in between two windows,’” Alan quips. “I would sleep underneath the bed maybe. Because people walking past the windows, it just doesn’t make me feel very safe.”

Sarah agrees: “And then too, if you want to rearrange or just make it your own, everyone’s going to have a different feel of where they want to sleep on any given day. It gives you freedom. And if you have the freedom to live how you want to live, it gives you the sense of self-sufficiency rather than having to follow all the strict congregate shelter rules.”

Josh further highlights how significant this feeling of freedom can be when looking back on his own experiences.

“See, I would have never moved it, but having the opportunity to move it is a big thing,” he says. “Because when you’re in jail, your bed is where it is. Your seat is where it is. There’s no moving it around, so being able to move your house around like anyone else, it makes you feel more like a human being.”

Ultimately, our Lived Experience Cohort members agree that implementing these changes to create the S2 line advances our mission to help displaced populations transition to more permanent solutions.

“In the future when we come out with new products, it’ll probably be like, ‘Oh wow, I didn’t really think of this before,’” Josh offers. “But right now I think this is the best we can do. It really is, until we get more feedback on what the next thing is.”

“We are providing that space for people to take the next step,” Sarah replies. “We can’t personally give good wraparound services because that’s not our thing, but we can provide the environment for it. It takes all these little things to get out of survival mode, but the first step is to get off the streets, and that’s where we start. It takes a village to help a village.”

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram