A homeless couple who spent the night sleeping in the cold in the North Hollywood Recreation Center on Jan. 31 is now in a secure and warm location across the street in the first-of-its-kind “Tiny Home Village” in the City of Los Angeles.

They and 73 other unhoused people will be welcomed to stay in  one of the 39 separate units located at 11471 Chandler Boulevard near the Red Line Metro Station before hopefully, eventually, moving on and into permanent housing.

Eleven people moved in the first day. There is already a waiting list of people seeking homes.

“This is a place of hope, healing, a new beginning,” said Ken Craft, founder and CEO of Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission, the agency operating the site.

Those who stay on the site must be 18 years and older and living within a three-mile radius. They are provided three meals per day, as well as job and mental health services. There is no time limit as to how long they can stay at the site for free, but the idea is for them to transition to permanent housing.

The “Tiny Homes” opening stood in stark contrast to the ongoing emptying out last weekend of the 267-room Airtel Plaza Hotel in Van Nuys that was being used as a temporary shelter by homeless participants in “Project Roomkey,” but has become victim of its funding now being put into a different program that’s supposed to lead toward more permanent housing called “Project Homekey.” More than 100 participants were still in the hotel as of Jan. 29.

It was another example of how elusive and frustrating the overall homeless situation remains for the city in its efforts to develop lasting solutions. 

The “Homes”

The 8-foot X 8-foot, rectangle-shaped structures in North Hollywood, which are similar to the size of a shed, are covered from floor to ceiling with a fiberglass material and aluminum framing. They allow for people to easily stand up and move inside.

They come with lockable doors, electrical hookups and windows. There is no plumbing or kitchen inside, partly for security and also because this is supposed to be temporary, not permanent housing.

Each “home” includes two fold-out beds, storage space, lighting, heater and air conditioning. Due to the pandemic, the units will only house one person unless they are a couple or a parent with a child. Three homes are also designed to house people with disabilities.

The site features 24-hour security and video surveillance, as well as five portable showers, bathrooms and laundry services. There are tables and chairs for eating and even a pet area. There is a curfew and no alcohol is allowed on site. 

Each home costs $7,500. But equipping the site with sewer, water, electricity and other amenities, as well as providing all the added services, raised the full price tag for the site to $3.5 million, according to LA Councilmember Paul Krekorian.

Still, Krekorian said, that is less than the average shelter facility and he considers it “money well spent.” He sees the facility as a “game changer.”

“It’s a place of hope, healing and opportunity,” Krekorian said.

For Those Already in the NoHo Community

Heidi Marston, executive director for Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, said the emphasis will be to “house people already in this community” instead of bringing them from other parts of the city — a common concern of neighbors.

“Seventy-five people are going to have a roof over their heads. They’ll be able to rest, recover and start on their journey to permanent housing,” Marston said.

When they are accepted, Craft said, the people are paired with a case manager to help them secure any documents they may need. They will be evaluated for mental and health needs, and provided job training. The idea is to get them employed and into permanent housing.

While there is currently no limit to how long the people can remain at the site— as long as they remain on a “positive pathway” toward permanent housing — Craft said the process can take between four to six months.

Other Models to Follow

Craft doesn’t see this housing as a permanent solution to the homeless crisis in Los Angeles, but part of several other forms to provide shelter to the 41,290 people (a 16% increase from the year before) in the City that lacked a roof over their head, according to the 2020 Homeless Count (https://cao.lacity.org/Homeless/hsc20200625d.pdf) 

“This is ‘a’ solution. The homes are built in one hour and a half. It’s quick and it’s affordable and efficient,” he notes.

And it’s a solution that will be replicated this year throughout the San Fernando Valley, where last year’s homeless count recorded 9,274 people.

Craft said another, much bigger ‘tiny home village’ is scheduled to open in April at Alexandria Park, near Victory Boulevard and the 170 Freeway, also in North Hollywood. That site will have 103 homes and 200 beds. 

Other sites are planned for Reseda and Tarzana, as well.

Craft understands some people might be weary of having a homeless tiny home village in their neighborhood.

But, he asks, “would you rather have this or have an encampment? And everyone says they want this.”

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