As the San Gabriel Valley Regional Housing Trust develops another set of tiny homes in Baldwin Park this Fall – with 16 larger units, meant to serve families of three – Streetsblog L.A. checked in with one former resident from the Esperanza Villa, to see how things have been going at the project in its first seven months.
(For context: Esperanza Villa supportive housing opened in Baldwin Park in November 2021. It is one of several Southern California examples of the tiny homes model for providing housing for unhoused people. The tiny homes are manufactured kit designs, roughly the size of a large tool shed, with a few features inside. Proponents note that inexpensive quick build housing helps people in need - and allows cities to respond quickly to crises, though critics have raised concerns.)
Maria Olivia told us through a translator that she came to Los Angeles from El Salvador fifty years ago seeking a better life. She lived in the Esperanza Villa tiny homes for about six months starting last November after her daughter said she would not house her anymore at her place in West Covina.
She went to stay with her daughter-in-law in Baldwin Park, but that was an untenable situation, due to lack of space. Then her daughter-in-law found out about the city of Baldwin Park’s referral program for the Tiny Homes from a friend working at the City’s Senior Center. She helped her mother-in-law through the application and interview process, and Maria Olivia was able to move into the newly opened tiny homes on the eastside of Baldwin Park.
She says she was very lucky “by God’s will” to be able to stay at "Las Casitas" and appreciated the three meals provided each day. The only rules she had to abide by were no visitors inside the premises and an 8 p.m. gate closure. The units have a bed, air conditioning and heat, lights, electrical outlets, and locking doors. Restrooms, showers, and laundry machines are shared. Pets are allowed too.
Maria Olivia says she was patient and stayed beyond the shelter’s initial 90 day program on an extension while she was connected with Section 8 housing in La Puente. That link was made through the site operator, Volunteers of America Los Angeles. She told Streetsblog that not everyone who comes through is patient enough to wait for that, and some leave. Regardless, she recommends that the government build more tiny homes.
“It’s a nice setting because it gives them more privacy,” says Giovanni Bryden, Program Manager for the Villa. He says potential residents are referred by Union Station Homeless Services and Baldwin Park Police Department. At the time of our visit, Bryden said 24 of the Villa’s 25 units were filled, and many residents were being qualified for extended stays because of the difficulties of the housing market. Bryden says residents can be connected with medical, mental health, and substance abuse treatment services. The city of Baldwin Park requires background checks, and the units are meant for unhoused people living in the area.
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