By T.A. Hendrickson
City Councilmember Kevin de León of Council District 14, joined by city agency officials and neighborhood leaders, broke ground on Tuesday morning on a 115-unit pallet shelter community for the homeless coming soon to Highland Park.
Each of the pallet shelters, also known as tiny homes, will include built-in fold-up beds, shelves, HVAC, windows and a locking door, in a space measuring 64 square feet. The shelter site includes facilities for showers, sanitation, laundry and storage, as well as on-site services, including meals and social services to help the occupants transition to permanent housing.
Construction of the Highland Park site — to be located on an unused stretch of Arroyo Seco Park next to the 110 Freeway — is expected to be completed by the end of September. Outreach and engagement teams will focus on unhoused residents in Highland Park for selection to occupy the shelters.
In his remarks at the groundbreaking, De León said that homelessness is “the moral crisis of our time” and that “future generations will judge our generation” by how we respond to it. He said that a lack of cohesion among government bodies and their polices has resulted in an inadequate response thus far. Tiny homes, he said, are one part of his plan, called “A Way Home,” to establish clearly defined objectives and set timelines for dealing with the crisis. Central to the “Way Home” strategy is the pledge and plan to bring 25,000 new homeless housing units online by 2025, he said.
City agency officials at the groundbreaking included leaders of the Bureau of Engineering, the Board of Public Works, the L.A. Fire Department and the Department of Recreation and Parks.
The officials praised the effort to establish the tiny home site in Highland Park, dubbed the “Arroyo Seco Tiny Home Village.” They also emphasized the care with which the project has been developed.
Gary Lee More, city engineer for L.A. in the Bureau of Engineering, noted that trees on the site would be preserved and that privacy fencing around the shelter units would blend with the landscape. He also said that a 9-foot sound wall would be built along the length of the project to lessen the sound from the adjacent 110 freeway.
Ralph M. Terrazas, chief of the L.A. Fire Department, noted several fire safety features that had been incorporated into the tiny home village design. Michael Shull, general manager of the Department of Recreation and Parks, praised the balance he said had been achieved at the site between allowing the park to be used by everyone while also providing a means of helping the homeless population.
The tiny home village in Highland Park will be administered by Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission, an experienced provider of homeless services. Rowan Vansleve, the chief administrator and financial officer at Hope of the Valley, said that tiny homes are a humane and dignified way to bring shelter to the homeless while awaiting permanent housing. “Like the councilmember, we believe in permanent supportive housing,” said Vansleve. “But the streets cannot be the waiting room for our neighbors to wait for the permanent housing to be built.”
The tiny home village in Highland Park is the fourth pallet-shelter site to be approved on city park property and will be the largest tiny home village thus far in the state of California.
The parks department has also approved a fifth pallet-shelter site: a 48-unit site to be located on Figueroa Street in Eagle Rock, in the overflow parking lot of the Eagle Rock Recreation Center across from the park. Councilmember De León and Union Station Homeless Services, the service provider who will administer the Eagle Rock site, will take questions and provide more information at a Zoom community meeting on July 14 at 7 p.m. Register here for the July 14 meeting.
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