In Los Angeles, a village of miniature prefab houses was installed in a parking lot as part of an initiative to help homeless people to direct their lives.
The second largest city in USA, located on the west coast has a large population of homeless people, second only to New York. Tens of thousands live in the open.
In the Tarzana neighborhood, they got up 76 little houses paid for by the local government. Each has six square meters and it is equipped with two beds and shelves, as well as air conditioning and heating.
With a cost of 6 thousand 500 Dollars per unit and can be assembled in just 90 minutes. Toilets and showers are shared. In addition, there are washing machines and long tables under umbrellas.
Zuri-Kinshasa Maria Terry just settled in the place. This ex-nudist says that ended up on the street a year ago, after two weeks in intensive care for covid-19.
“It was the scariest thing in the damn world being there,” Terry said, adding that he is still trying to come to terms with the fact that he found a stable place to live.
Besides allowing some privacy, the main advantage of tiny houses is security, he said, compared to living on the street or in a traditional shelter.
The Tarzana development is guarded around the clock and while residents they can’t keep the keys of their small houses, they can block access from the inside, he explained Rowan Vansleve, director of finance and administration of Hope of the Valley, an NGO that manages the place.
The process begins with “a very hot shower, a great meal, and then coming up with a plan” to help the new resident get out of their precarious situation, Vansleve said.
“Once you have a plan, we will assign you a small house and you will work on that plan for as long as it takes,” he added.
Residents have access to medical care and therapy, and three meals a day are provided. They are given accommodation during three months, a renewable term until the resident finds a permanent home, explained Brandon hanner, NGO program manager for the Tarzana site.
The root of the crisis
Los Angeles’ first set of tiny houses opened in early 2021 and several more followed. In recent years, similar initiatives have emerged in other parts of California, including Saint Joseph Y Seattle.
Mayer dahan, founder of Dream Builders ProjectTiny houses can be “a very positive transition” for some, he said, but worries “the concept that solutions can be found by trying to resolve the symptoms, rather than the underlying problem.”
Shayla myers, lead attorney of the Legal Aid Foundation Los Angeles, noted as a problem that “there is too little affordable housing for people to leave these shelter facilities and access permanent housing.”
While he recognized that small houses are a better choice for some, Myers insists that these homes are “incredibly expensive” due to operating costs, and that California must do more.
“There is no way to solve the homeless crisis without addressing the root causes, which are poverty, wealth inequality and a lack of affordable housing options,” he explained.
But the city wants to move quickly to clear its sidewalks of camps, especially after a judge ordered such a move, saying at least some of the homeless must be placed in a home for the boreal autumn.
Terry says he is well aware that small houses are far from being a perfect solution, but for the moment the solution “works”, andHe hopes to train to become a real estate agent once his situation stabilizes.