Los Angeles’ homelessness crisis has been quietly brewing for several years now.
To address this issue, nonprofit Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission has opened two colorful tiny home villages in the city this year: Chandler Street and the newer Alexandria Park.
The villages aren’t meant to house millennial tourists or trendy minimalists interested in tiny living.
Instead, the two communities were built to temporarily house Los Angeles’ unhoused residents.
This serves as an alternative to “congregate” shelters that can often be more expensive and less time-efficient to construct.
The goal of Hope of the Valley’s tiny house program is to help its residents find a permanent home by the end of their stay.
The program starts at 90 days with the option to extend for an additional three months depending on the progress of the resident, Priscilla Rodriguez, a caseworker at the Chandler Street Tiny Home Village, told Insider.
The two villages are about two miles away from each other and were opened only two months apart.
The first tiny home village on Chandler Blvd. (pictured below), opened in February as a “test case” for Los Angeles, Rowan Vansleve, CFO of Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission, told Insider.
The North Hollywood-based community has 40 tiny homes and 75 beds, but as of now, only couples are allowed to share a unit due to COVID-19 protocols.
So far, the program has been a success, according to Rodriguez.
The village’s on-site caseworkers help the residents with a variety of tasks, from obtaining a social security card, to finding income, to teaching them life skills, such as how to keep their tiny homes clean.
“Some people come here and they’re used to being in a tent and not having their own space,” Rodriguez said. “They’re going to be housed one day on their own, and we want to support them in every way so when they get there, they feel confident to be there and to keep that house on their own.”
Many of the residents at this first site have already made “huge progress,” and the majority of the community’s 43 occupants are already on track to be housed independently, according to Rodriguez.
Now, Hope of the Valley is looking to continue this success with its latest tiny home community just a short drive away from the original Chandler site.
The new Alexandria Park Tiny Home Village is the largest tiny home community in California, according to the nonprofit.
The new site, which is also located in North Hollywood, is over double the size of the original Chandler location with 103 tiny homes and 200 beds.
The new community will begin welcoming its first round of residents this week.
The Alexandria Park and Chandler Street sites are both filled with 64-square-foot shelters made by Washington-based Pallet, which specializes in building tiny homes for people who have been unhoused due to natural or personal disasters.
The company also makes 100-square-foot units, but let’s take a look inside the smaller iteration that’s being used by Hope of the Valley.
The cabins have an aluminum frame with insulated, fiber-reinforced plastic composite walls.
Like any typical home, the shelters have a lockable entry door.
A locking door may seem like a no-brainer for most people, but many of the communities’ residents may not have previously had this security measure.
This sense of privacy and security isn’t possible in a “traditional” congregate shelter, Michael Lehrer and Nerin Kadribegovic, Lehrer Architects’ founding partner and partner, respectively, told Insider in an email interview in February. Lehrer Architects designed the Chandler site with the Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering.
“Ethically and morally for people who’ve experienced trauma, having a locking door can sometimes become the difference between accepting help getting off the street and making a step towards permanent supportive housing,” Rowan Vansleve, CFO of Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission, told Insider.
A 64-square-foot space may seem small, but it has enough room to accommodate all of the unit’s amenities, which include temperature controls like an air conditioner and heater …
… lights that can be used when the four windows don’t provide enough natural brightness …
… and outlets.
The beds are topped with a navy blue duvet, which is meant to invoke a calm feeling, according to Vansleve.
There’s also a small desk, a smoke detector for an added layer of security …
… and storage space underneath the bed frames.
The new Alexandria Park tiny homes also come with toiletries bags customized for men and women.
Several of the new shelters’ furnishings are sourced from Hope of the Valley’s five donation and thrift shops located throughout the greater Los Angeles region.
Several residents who have been living at the Chandler location have already made themselves at home with plants, posters, and artwork.
The tiny homes either come with one or two beds, and some of the single-bed units have enough space to accommodate a wheelchair.
The shelters don’t have room for a private restroom, but both communities have shared individual bathrooms that each come with a sink, toilet, and shower.
Same goes for laundry, which can be done at the sites’ communal laundry facilities.
Pallet’s shelters typically have a lifespan of over 10 years, and the units can be easily disassembled and reassembled, according to Pallet.
The Pallet homes located in Alexandria Park can be assembled within 90 minutes.
A 64-square-foot Pallet shelter starts at $4,900.
But external costs such as sewage, electricity, and internet bumped the cost of each bed at the Alexandria Park location up to about $43,000.
“It doesn’t feel like a homeless shelter, it feels like a launching pad,” Vansleve said about the Alexandria Park Tiny Home Village. “As you walk through, it almost has a college dorm sort of vibe to it, which is exciting.”