A California beach town has established a village of 15 pallet shelters with onsite security and case managers to house some of its rising homeless population.
Renondo Beach has less than 200 homeless people yet wanted to combat the growing need for shelter that had been worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.
The 8ft by 8ft cabins were created by a Pallet, a Seattle-based company, and originally designed to help with disaster relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Samantha Krisa, 28, was among those to receive her keys to one of the cabins this week. ‘It looks a lot bigger than it does from the outside, she told The Daily Breeze. ‘This is awesome.’
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Renondo Beach has set up 15 pallet shelters with onsite security and case managers to house some of its rising homeless population. The 8ft v 8ft homes can sleep two people
The 15 Renondo Beach units began to accept residents from Monday
The aluminum structures are made to store flat and quickly assemble, making it easy to set up small villages and then move them along if needed, the designer Brady King states
She had spent the last four years living on the streets and slept most nights under a lifeguard stand.
‘It’s a place to sleep and that’s huge,’ Krisa said. ‘That’s really all you need is a place to sleep. You can’t sleep on the street as a girl and feel OK.’
‘This is my own space,’ she added. ‘This is like a sanctuary almost. I can breathe and don’t have to think of anybody.
The aluminum structures are made to store flat and quickly assemble, making it easy to set up small villages and then move them along if needed.
‘It’s meant to be palletized,’ said Brady King, who came up with the design in 2005, ‘so you can get as many flat packs on a pallet as possible.’
The idea to use them to house the houseless population came from Pallet’s own employees, many of whom had been homeless themselves.
King describes the company as a ‘social purpose company’ where 90 of the 100 employees have either been incarcerated, struggled with addiction or experienced homelessness.
‘Our employees were the ones who said, “This is amazing. This is exactly what’s needed – this sort of temporary, stabilizing place where we can have shelter and keep our things and that’s what was missing in our story”,’ Amy King, CEO of Pallet, told ABC 7 Los Angeles.
The site was erected a few weeks ago and began accepting its first residents from Monday.
Krisa’s arrival marked the tenth resident to be handed keys as the coordinators of the site face deadlines in finding at least one resident housed by the end of the year in order to receive coronavirus-related federal relief funding.
The first stage of the project has been funded with $300,000 in community development block grants and $410,000 from county grant funds, according to The Beach Reporter, which covers fencing, 24-hour security and three meals per day for the first six months of the project.
The CARES Act fund is also supplying $420,000 to cover capital costs.
The 8ft by 8ft cabins were created by a Pallet, a Seattle-based company, and originally designed to help with disaster relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina
Each one is set up with bunk beds, shelves, heat, air conditioning, and electrical panels
The Renondo Beach shelter is being tested out for six months
‘We have had an increasing homeless problem and we needed a solution,’ Redondo Beach Mayor Bill Brand said.
‘And we really didn’t want to just wait and see what happens, we wanted to take a proactive approach.’
The new site will also set the stage for allowing the city to enforce anti-camping laws.
According to the Beach Reporter, Renondo Beach will be allowed by the courts to begin to enforce the law – and prosecute offenders – if it can provide beds for roughly 60 percent of its homeless population.
‘Times are changing,’ Brand added, ‘and the days of ignoring this problem in hopes that it won’t affect us are over.’
The site, which had been approved by the city council in October, will be used of those who need temporary help only and will serve as a stepping stone to more permanent housing.
The units themselves are made of aluminum, which won’t rust, and are expected to last up to ten years, sleeping two people each.
Each one is set up with bunk beds, shelves, heat, air conditioning, and electrical panels.
There are also onsite restrooms, showers and 24-hour security. There is a 10pm curfew and visitors and drug and alcohol use are not allowed.
The Pallet shelters have already been set up in other parts of California and Oregon
The Renondo Beach shelter will also include a unit for an on-site manager
The units are made of aluminum, which won’t rust, and are expected to last up to ten years
Yet importantly to those staying there, there will be a door and lock between them and the outside world.
‘They were so grateful to have a door and a lock because it felt like they could leave their things and go get services and not worry about their stuff,’ King said. ‘They could feel safe sleeping at night. It’s a game-changer.’
‘I’ve had my stuff stolen so many times,’ said another new resident Sean Serino, 31.
He has been on the streets for five years after his parents foreclosed on their home and went bankrupt when he was just a few credits short of graduating from UCLA with a political science degree.
‘I find a hiding spot where I think nobody will know and it gets stolen or thrown away. This helps you get back on your feet because you can sleep.’
The village was assembled by the South Bay Galleria, in what was part of a public works yard between a cemetery and train tracks, in order to keep it away from residents and businesses after complaints from locals about the original suggestions.
The first site at Aviation Park was shot down as it was too close to a preschool, while two other water front locations faced opposition from local businesses owners who said the shelter did not belong near the ‘city’s crown jewel’.
‘That’s a tourist destination,’ Mayor Brand said. ‘We are trying to market that place. It’s just inappropriate to have it down on our waterfront when we are trying to market it.’
Units can also be converted to just sleep one person with a desk
The shelter has fencing, 24-hour security and three meals per day
However, the relocation is still being pushed by some city council members.
‘No one wants it in their neighborhood next to them,’ Councilmember John Gran said. ‘It’s not like we are going to find a place that is equidistant form everything… You have to get past the fact that you don’t want it near you.’
According to The Beach Reporter, locals also showed some concern that the new shelter would attract more homeless people into the area after a new nearby location in Venice sparked a spate of crime and an encampment in the surrounding streets.
‘It’s a pilot program,’ explained City Attorney Mike Webb said. ‘If it make things worse we should have the right to shut it down.’
Yet Amy King claimed to the Daily Breeze that they have not yet had one installation that has not been successful, even with major opposition beforehand.
The Renondo Beach shelter will remain on its current site for six months before the city council will reassess its location and decide if it needs to be moved.
Another $75,000 in funding would be needed to move them to another site.
The same type of homeless villages have also been established in Riverside County, which unveiled 30 Pallets in March, and several sites are planned for Los Angeles in 2021.
Tacoma, Washington, was the first city to purchase the pallets for use for the homeless and they had now been set up throughout Oregon, Minnesota and Texas.
There are also sites in development in Arkansas, North Carolina, Virginia and New York.
Pallet said it has provided 1,500 beds to cities and towns across the U.S. since the pandemic began.