For a woman fleeing a terrible situation, Chandler Blvd. Tiny Home Village is a place of refuge.
“I landed here because I had a terrible bad relationship behind me,” she said. “So I needed a place to have my quiet place, so I could just relax, find jobs and figure out how to get my own apartment. And start over. The woman, who will be called Jane, asked not to not use his real name for his safety.
Hope of the Valley is a partially government funded, partially independently funded non-profit organization that aims to address the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles. The organization is known for a specific type of homeless shelter known as small home villages.
A small hometown is exactly what it sounds like. It is a complex containing a series of many 64 square foot houses. Each of these houses contains two beds, two windows, heating and air conditioning systems and storage spaces. Each tiny house houses two people. The organization has six small shelter villages, with three shelters in North Hollywood, two in the San Fernando Valley and one in Pasadena.
On Chandler Blvd., neat rows of tiny white houses line the compound walls. A few houses are colorful and some residents have even decorated their little houses to add their own personal touch. A resident hung signs on her house with information and slogans for causes she supports. Another decorated the exterior walls with flower stickers.
The organization provides residents with three hot meals a day in a small outdoor dining area, with coffee available around the clock. There’s a laundry room with multiple washers and dryers, five bathrooms with showers, one of which is handicap accessible, and even a small library. There is also an area with trash cans where residents store their belongings, and there are two trash cans per small house, which hold 60 gallons of space for each resident.
Kylene Wolfstein, project manager at Chandler Blvd. Tiny Home Village, said the organization builds tiny homes that are both comfortable and space-saving. However, she said sometimes it’s not the physical space that matters the most.
“Homeless people are tough, there’s a lot of trauma in there,” Wolfstein said. “So there’s not much we can do to make them comfortable, because a lot of it is about healing. It’s not necessarily, you know, having a shelf.
Wolfstein also pointed out that every tiny house has a chair placed in front of it.
“It helps with the community feel,” she said. “Like in the evening, between dusk, between night and daylight, you’ll see more people relaxing, maybe two or three people relaxing here, just talking to each other and enjoying the weather.”
Wolfstein also shared the story of a man who found refuge through the organization. According to her, when the man arrived in the small native village, he was blind due to cataracts, but after spending some time healing, he was able to see again.
“He went from walking with his cane to bumping into things, so now he’s like, ‘Oh, I like your blue shirt,'” Wolfstein said.
For Jane, residing in the small hometown after fleeing domestic violence is what she needed after her heartbreaking experience.
“The most important thing here is that you can have your quiet place to calm down and think about your future and be able to focus and figure out what’s the right path for you,” she said. . “And after so much trauma and issues, and mental issues that you’ve had, you know, I appreciate that every day.”
Jane can now focus on her studies at her community college, where she is studying English, acting, photography and social media marketing.
She said she would tell anyone in her position that “this is the best opportunity you could ever have in your life, isn’t it? Catch it and start over.
Damon DeLillo, an independent entrepreneur who works with the organization in development and fundraising, said these small home villages are what is called “transit housing”.
“The transition housing is basically a bridge between the streets and the permanent housing, so this transition housing is a bit like transitional housing,” he said. “And then hopefully in a period of about six or 12 months, we not only fixed a lot of the issues that may have put them on the streets to begin with, but we also provided them with permanent housing, and I hope they don’t end up on the street after that.
DeLillo said homeless people can join the program and be housed in a small house through two main entry points.
Outreach teams are an entry point. He said the organization runs its own outreach team, but also coordinates with other organizations, neighborhood councils and the Los Angeles Police Department to “contact the base, communicate and talk to everyone they see in the street”.
“They specifically go to encampments, to underground passages, to places where people live on the streets, and basically encourage them, let them know about all the resources that are available to them,” he said.
Access centers are another entry point. DeLillo said these are places where a person can find bathrooms, meals, clothing and storage for some of their belongings. Two of these access centers are located on Tyrone Ave. in North Hollywood and Sherman Way in Van Nuys. He said the only criteria for people to join the program is a “willingness or desire to get off the streets and change their lives”.
He also said that once a person enters the organization’s shelters, they are assigned a case manager and housing navigator, as well as a mental health counselor if they have health issues. mental.
“What we do is provide what’s called ‘full service’, so rather than sending a person all the accounting of things they need to get back on their feet, we provide it in this environment,” he said. said.
He explained that the organization is able to do this because it coordinates with many other nonprofits to provide all possible services.
“We work with many different non-profit organizations that provide all kinds of different services. So even if we only employ 500 people directly, there are probably five times as many people we actually work with,” DeLillo said.
He gave the example of an organization that deals specifically with animal supply and veterinary care.
“A lot of people who are on the street, who have a dog or a cat, or sometimes a reptile or a guinea pig, or a parrot, or whatever, you know when everything has been taken from them, it’s maybe be the only company they have, and they will choose to keep their animal rather than enter a shelter,” he said.
DeLillo said working with this specific organization has allowed Hope of the Valley shelters to be among the only shelters that allow people to keep pets. He shared some of the difficulties with government funding to run a social service organization.
“Even though the federal government may spend 400% on building a missile, when it comes to human services, they may be funding 80% and expecting the rest of the funding to come from other source,” he said.
DeLillo also shared some of the limitations on the organization’s ability to get people off the streets for good. He said that of all the homeless shelters the organization runs, “when we look back and pull all the numbers from all these different environments, over a six-month or 12-month period, about 20% of the people who find themselves in these end up in permanent accommodation.
“But one of the things that people don’t see, and what doesn’t fit into that number, because that number is a number that we relate to the city, so it has a very narrow definition, it’s people who have entered the program that our housing navigator has actually placed in permanent or supervised housing,” he said. “This does not include people who are resolving in other ways.
He said that for people who live on the streets, “it’s almost impossible to do anything but know where you’re going to eat today, where you’re going to sleep tonight. And you get into such a level of survival that it’s just impossible to do anything for tomorrow or the next day or next week.
He explained that this is why many people in the organization’s shelters solve their housing problem in this unofficial way.
“A lot of times what happens, once we stabilize someone in a shelter environment, help them with some of the things they need, they don’t have to worry about ‘where do I go? I find food today?’ or am I going to have a place to sleep tonight? They can then focus on things like finding a job,” he said.
But DeLillo said sometimes the organization doesn’t know how many people who benefit from the organization’s services fall into this category. He also explained that there are some unfortunate limits to the organization’s ability to help people who are experiencing very serious problems.
“The sad part about the reality of homelessness, especially in the state of California, is that there’s a segment of the population, there’s a lot of different names for it, whether you want call it chronically homeless, or people with serious mental health issues or substance abuse issues,” he said. “And in some cases, there’s really no answer at the moment for various people.”
He said there’s a segment of people who are in their programs who are at “different stages of mental illness, addiction, who can usually get help, some of them can get help in a bridging situation, but often they need round-the-clock companionship and nothing really provides that.
DeLillo also pointed out that people experiencing homelessness are a diverse group of people and that each person’s circumstances are unique. He said there are many reasons a person may be homeless, from the single mother fleeing domestic violence to the teenager who has just come out to their parents and been kicked out.
“People you see actually sleeping on sidewalks and that kind of stuff, it’s that kind of 5 or 10% that’s very visible. But you don’t often see single mothers, teenagers, children and the elderly,” he said.
For Jane, who was fleeing a terrible situation and trying to start over, Chandler Blvd. Tiny Homes Village gave him that chance.
“To be surrounded by people who want to help you, who want to give you positive energy, who want to see, who want to see you move forward in your life. It’s very exciting,” she said. “It’s a beautiful place, with beautiful people, with beautiful hearts.”