My Tiny Home Tour

As everyone in Brentwood knows, the homeless encampment on the edge of the VA property is now gone. Many of these who were on the sidewalk on San Vicente Blvd. are now inside the fence, on the VA property. Some of the lucky ones might end up in tiny homes, which are now being installed on the VA lawn.

Michelle Bisnoff, head of the Brentwood Community Council, and Marcie Polier Swartz, head of a nonprofit called Village for Vets, were instrumental in bringing about this turn of events. Next month I’ll be doing an article on Michelle’s and Marcie’s efforts. 

For now, I want to tell you about my recent visit to Hope of the Valley’s Alexandria Park tiny home village in North Hollywood.

I was invited to attend this tour by Nancy Hammerman of the Harvard Business School Association of Southern California. I was quite eager to attend, as I had done a podcast with Ken Craft, CEO of Hope of the Valley, but I had never actually met him. 

First of all, Alexandria Park was quite nice. There is a fence all around the 2-acre village, which provides security for the village which contains 107 tiny homes and which put a roof over the heads of over 200 residents. 

Some units are singles; most are doubles. A single unit is 64 square feet; a double is 100 square feet. Each unit comes with a cot (or cots), electricity, air conditioning and heating. These pre-fab units are made by Palette Shelter. 

There is a single entry in and out of the village, with a security gate and security guard. Packages are inspected as residents return to the village. Curfew is 10 p.m. Ken Crane says there is no way to police the personal activity of residents when they are outside of the village, there are strict rules requiring no alcohol, drugs or weapons while inside the compound. Residents are allowed to have a pet. 

There is a common area for eating and meeting; showers and bathrooms are in separate trailers (the tiny home units don’t have bathrooms); washers and dryers are available at no cost to residents, housed in a building made out of a shipping container; services like mental health counseling are provided inside a headquarters building, also made out of a shipping container. 

We were given a walking tour by Ken Crane, who has now assembled five of these villages, with over 1,000 formerly unhoused now housed. 

Crane said street encampments have virtually disappeared in Paul Krekorian’s City Council District 2, where Hope of the Valley operates some of its facilities. Krekorian is a big supporter of tiny homes and has secured city funding and city land for the tiny home villages. 

Crane said we could take photos of the facilities, but out of respect to residents, he asked that we not take pictures of individuals without their permission. As your polite-but-persistent Brentwood News reporter, I of course asked one of the residents if I could take his picture.

Arnold was more than happy to allow me to take his picture. He also gave two of us a tour of his tiny home, which he loves. He spent many years on the streets, he said. Having a place of his own where he can lock the door at night makes a huge, positive difference, he said. 

Tiny homes arrive on a truck in a flat pack and can be assembled in 60 minutes. Each unit costs just $10,000, but when you add up all the costs for the common areas, the fencing and utilities, the costs, “all in,” run $40,000 per unit. The costs keep coming down as Hope of the Valley gains more experience, according to Crane. 

Crane does not see tiny homes as a permanent solution. His hope is that many of his residents will reintegrate into society and move into more permanent housing. But having the tiny home option gives the city the chance to house thousands of homeless in a cost-effective manner quickly, he said. 

Now I’ll take off my reporter’s hat and put on my opinion writer’s hat. 

Tiny homes are fine. They are great, actually. This innovation allows us to provide meaningful help to those currently living on the streets. In my view, it is folly to continue to spend even another penny on permanent supporting housing units that take years to build and that can cost $750,000 for a 300-400 square foot unit. 

With tiny homes, we can move quickly and in a cost-effective manner to get our homeless brothers and sisters on the road to recovery. I don’t think another unit of permanent supportive housing should be approved until ALL our homeless brethren are provided basic shelter. This could come in the form of tiny homes, decent tents, FEMA-style villages, shipping containers, shared apartments or room inside old hotels and motels. 

Once we get everyone off the streets and into services, then we can see where we are and how expensive permanent housing fits into the equation – if it does at all. Everyone says homelessness should be a temporary condition; if this is the case, why aren’t temporary shelters good enough? 

We need more affordable housing across the board – to keep people in housing and to place homeless individuals into places they can afford. There is only so much money to go around. 

This isn’t just about shelter; the true costs of providing mental health services, drug rehab and job training will be staggering. It makes no sense to squander limited resources on $750,000 units. Tiny homes, I think, represent a rather ingenious solution. 

Think of my new acquaintance, Arnold. Try telling him a tiny home isn’t good enough. He will set you straight, I can assure you.

in Opinion
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