Los Angeles Funds Latest Lower Development Homeless Shelters: The Tiny Homes
Courtesy of Hope of the Valley
The city with the second largest homeless population in the U.S. is struggling to create more housing units for the homeless. But a new trend to address homelessness making its way on the scene with hopes to rehabilitate homeless people back into society: Tiny Home Villages.
The first Tiny Home Village in North Hollywood is run by the nonprofit, Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission. Hope of the Valley opened the village at the beginning of February and already has a waiting list.
The village on Chandler Blvd. has 40 units, and can house up to 80 people outside of coronavirus restrictions. With the current restrictions, the village is home to 45 people beating homelessness.
Hope of the Valley also is constructing a second Tiny Home Village in Alexandria Park, that will have 103 homes and 200 beds.
Each home is 64 sq. ft. in size, has two beds, heat, air-conditioning, windows, a small desk, electric outlets, and a front door.
In addition to the home, residents also have access to meals, showers, case management, housing navigation, mental health, job training and placement.
The village sits on a plot of land that may have looked useless to most, but is now the foundation of a home for many. Rowan Vansleve, CFO of Hope of the Valley shared with Scriberr News how they turned this “unusual” piece of land into something useful.
“It had no electricity, it had no sewer, and it was an eyesore. It had an encampment on it, and a burnt out car. It had overgrown weeds, and it was really a blight in the community,” Vansleve told Scriberr News.
“Mayor Garcetti was able to thread the needle, and the city came forward with the developer and funds to turn that into a usable piece of land,” said Vansleve.
In 2016, Angelenos voted to pass Proposition HHH, a $1.2 billion bond to fund supportive housing units for the homeless. Nearly five years after the proposition passed, L.A. auditor Ron Galperin found only three projects have been completed with a total of 179 supportive units and 49 non-supportive units. There are still 5,522 projects in the pipeline, but over 70 percent have not begun construction.
Galperin advised the City of Los Angeles to transition away from funding larger development housing projects and use funds for lower-development shelters, like the Tiny Homes, since the rate of homelessness is increasing faster than housing is being built.
Hope of the Valley works with outreach workers to seek out individuals who are ready to live in the Tiny Home Village, and work hard to leave homelessness behind for good. These outreach workers are helping to decide, “who is ready to break the cycle of homelessness, and who’s ready to come on sight,” said Vansleve.
As soon as somebody is brought into the village, they are given a long, hot shower, and clean clothes.
“There’s something that is magical about hot water and a clean pair of underwear. So you get to spend as long as you want getting clean, and feeling human again,” said Vansleve.
Next, they are set up with a case manager to create an individual plan to help guide each person through their time in the village.
“The case managers are the salt of the earth. These guys are guaranteed to go to Heaven. They are just good people,” said Vansleve.
Once the case manager has helped pinpoint the reason(s) that are stopping that person from being housed, then they can help to ensure they do not end up back on the streets. Even though individuals can stay in the homes for as long as they need, most residents stay around 3-6 months.
“So for the next 90 to 120 days, however long you’re going to be with us, we’re going to break that one big thing that’s keeping you homeless,” said Vansleve.
That “one big thing” can look very different for each person in the Tiny Home Village. It can be addiction, abuse, trauma, mental health, or a number of different reasons. Because the “one big thing” is not the same for everybody, the solution also varies for many, he said.
“Sometimes walking into a big shelter is a little bit overwhelming. For many that actually becomes the barrier to getting help. When they walk into a 100 bed shelter, it’s beautiful and it’s pristine, and they’ll look around and they’ll go, ‘There’s no door I can lock myself behind,’” said Vansleve.
“And they’ll choose to stay on the street, to stay in their trauma, to stay in their struggle, rather than to go, ‘You know what, I’m ready to take that step out.’”
“I look at some of the people that were serving who are elderly women, and surely we draw the line there. These women look the same age as my mom.”
Vansleve said “there’s no silver bullet,” but he knows the most important thing is providing shelter, and help for the homeless population of L.A.
The Tiny Home Village is funded partially by the City of L.A., the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, private donations, and a group of thrift stores owned by Hope of the Valley.
The total cost of the shelter costs roughly $5 million dollars, with each tiny home amounting anywhere from $3,000 to $6,000. The cost of sewage, infrastructure, and land is also included in that total.
The nonprofit owns five thrift stores in L.A. that act as a work program for residents attempting to get back into the workforce.
The stores employ 50-60 workers, primarily young mothers, to help them earn extra money while they are looking for a permanent job. “We give them a fair wage, and the same philosophy: treat people with dignity and respect,” said Vanselve.
But, those forms of funding only account for about 80% of the shelter’s operating costs. In order to raise extra money, as they are growing by 400%, Hope of the Valley staff had to think outside of the box.
“We’ve discovered if we do something incredibly stupid, people donate,” said Vansleve. In years past, they have run the L.A. marathon, but they decided to take it a step further this year.
“I thought, well, if running one marathon was normally enough, what if we ran five back to back over nine days,” said Vansleve. On March 19-27, Vanselve and the Hope of the Valley CEO, Ken Craft plan to run about 125 miles during “Rally to the Valley”, passing through all 17 of their sites.
“Last year 1300 people died on the street. We have to do something. So, we don’t know what else to do but kind of follow the Forrest Gump mentality,” said Vansleve.