LOS ANGELES—As a local nonprofit prepares to open the largest tiny home community in California designed to provide temporary housing for the homeless in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, celebrities and officials gathered to celebrate the event and promote fundraising efforts.
Actor Jon Cryer and his wife, local entertainment reporter Lisa Joyner, said they wanted to do something to address the growing homeless population in Los Angeles. After extensive research, the couple donated $85,000 to Hope of the Valley for the creation of its latest Tiny Home Village in Alexandria Park.
“Anybody who’s lived here for any length of time can see that this is a different crisis that we’re dealing with. This is just bigger … and it’s time for everybody to step up,” Cryer told The Epoch Times. “Los Angeles has gone through periods where we’ve had a huge homeless problem, and then it’s waned a little bit, and then it comes back. … This, however, is an unprecedented crisis.”
When it opens next week, the Alexandria Park location will be the largest Tiny Homes Village in the state, providing 103 units with beds for over 200 people. Each 64-square-foot unit comes with lights, air conditioning, power outlets, a locked door, four windows, a small desk, and two beds.
Cryer, who’s won two Emmy Awards for the sitcom “Two and a Half Men,” and Joyner were part of Hope of the Valley’s press conference at the city’s first Tiny Home Village location on Chandler Boulevard in North Hollywood, where they presented a large donation check to the organization alongside L.A. City Councilmember Paul Krekorian on March 24.
Hope of the Valley is a California-based homelessness nonprofit building both temporary and emergency homeless shelters in a cost-effective way, bridging the gap for people between living on the streets and permanent supportive housing.
Joyner said the couple chose the group because of its comprehensive program to help the homeless.
“You can throw money at things, but it doesn’t mean that it’s going to get better. People have been doing it for years,” Joyner told The Epoch Times. “What Hope of the Valley is actually doing is they’re providing a vast array of services—not only the Tiny Homes, but all the social programs.”
Councilman Krekorian championed the Tiny Homes Village in his district, which provided land for the project.
“The Tiny Home options seemed like the perfect use for the land that would actually make it better than it was before, and give an opportunity for literally dozens and dozens of people to come in off the streets and have a safe, secure, hygienic place to live,” Krekorian told The Epoch Times.
Estella is a resident at the Chandler Boulevard Tiny Home Village, which opened in February and is currently full. She told reporters she was a little scared at first because she thought the site was “a FEMA camp or something, that they were just trying to put us in one place.”
“Well, let me tell you: I was wrong,” she said. “I came to meet the staff who showed me my room, and I sat on my bed and I said, ‘Wow, I’m finally home.’ I finally can rest and lock my door at night, and not worry about people stealing my stuff or hurting me. I finally had my own privacy.”
Joyner said she could relate to people struggling to stay afloat.
“It’s been something that’s been very personal to John and I,” she said. “Homelessness in particular has really struck a chord because for me personally, I waited tables before I got in television, and I lived day to day. And so every day, if I didn’t go to work, I may not make my rent, and I know what that’s like, and I didn’t have family to fall back on.”
A Social Services ‘Supermarket’
Hope of the Valley’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Rowan Vansleve told The Epoch Times the new location will provide a “supermarket for social services to get people off the street.” Some of the available programs include mental health counseling, drug rehabilitation, meals, case management, and job training.
Each new resident sits down with a case manager to figure out the root cause of their homelessness, Vansleve said. Then, together they come up with a 90- to 180-day plan to get the resident a job and into permanent supportive housing.
For those dealing with more serious health issues like drug addiction, the rehabilitation process could take longer. But the biggest step is getting them into housing, according to Vansleve.
“We found people are pretty resilient, if we can overcome that one big hurdle The biggest problem in L.A. is there is not enough shelter beds. … It’s fine to say, ‘We need to put people in housing,’ but the housing’s not there,” he said.
“There needs to be a waystation where people can get stabilized, [where] we can wash off some of the trauma [and] get people in a place that they’re ready to be housed—so we need more shelters. That’s why what Councilman Paul Kerkorian did is so incredible. In the last 13 months, we’ve gone from zero shelter beds in this district to over 500.”
Krekorian spearheaded the Tiny Home Villages when he realized there was a need for more flexible, temporary supportive housing units in L.A. With the rate of homelessness increasing faster than permanent supportive housing is being built, he felt there needed to be emergency options in the interim.
“For example, situations like a married couple, say, or a parent and an adult child, or, other situations where people don’t want to be or can’t be separated, they have the option to come into a unit like this, where they would never accept a congregate shelter that’s separated by gender,” Krekorian said.
An elderly homeless woman who lived in his district with her developmentally disabled adult son couldn’t go into a traditional shelter because they would be separated by gender, he said. “So a situation like this gives them an opportunity to be together, to take care of one another, to lock the door and be safe and secure.”
A Cost-Effective Option?
Krekorian said one of the biggest challenges in Los Angeles is finding land to place the Tiny Homes, since it is a “very built-out city.”
He said he’s been trying to find productive use for empty land in his district for years. The Chandler Boulevard Village is located on unused park land across the street from North Hollywood Park; the new location is off the 170 Freeway, next to an old theater and Gold’s Gym.
Krekorian emphasized that the sites are not for permanent housing. Though Hope of the Valley runs the facilities, the land is still owned by the city.
“Permanent supportive housing regularly costs $600,000 a unit. … This is intended to be bridge housing,” he said. “The cost of the actual cabins themselves is incredibly inexpensive. It’s very cost-effective to build a project like this, particularly when it’s on city land.”
Each tiny home costs roughly $5,000 to $6,000—but the overall price tag skyrockets for the project when considering the costs to implement infrastructure, sewage, plumbing, and power lines. The overall cost to set up the first Tiny Home Village was over $5 million, according to an editorial in the Los Angeles Times.
“In my view, it’s not really fair to count that against the cost of the project, because no matter what we did with this property, we still would have had to do those things,” said Krekorian. “If we built a skate park here or a dog park, or you know, a playground, we still would have had to do all those things. So that really isn’t part of the cost of housing the homeless.”
He said the Alexandria Park location is much less expensive than the North Hollywood village on a per unit basis.
“And future ones will be even less expensive,” he said. “As you know, we gain the experience and figure out solutions. As I say, this is not the only solution. But it has to be part of our menu of options for funding.”
While Hope of the Valley is contracted through the city to run the facilities, the organization still has to raise donations to cover operational costs, Krekorian said. That’s where donations—like the check from Joyner and Cryer—come in handy.
Hope of the Valley plans to open more Tiny Home villages this year, and recently purchased a roller skating rink in Northridge that went out of business during the pandemic to turn it into bridge housing.
According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), the homeless population increased almost 13 percent from 2019 to 2020, with more than 65,000 people experiencing homelessness in the county.
The Tiny Home villages are funded in part by the city’s homelessness budget (over $400 million annually) and through private partnerships. More permanent supportive housing is largely financed using funds raised by the city’s Proposition HHH, a measure passed by voters in 2016 to issue $1.2 billion in general obligation bonds with the aim of creating housing for the homeless.