Whittier opens village of tiny homes for homeless residents

City installed 30 homes of 64 sf for single adults or parents with one child

Whittier Mayor Kimberly Cobos-Cawthorne with layout of Montebello-Commerce Metrolink Statio tiny home village (Facebook, City of Montebello)
Whittier Mayor Kimberly Cobos-Cawthorne with layout of Montebello-Commerce Metrolink Statio tiny home village (Facebook, City of Montebello)

The City of Montebello is the latest to add a village of hobbit-size homes for homeless residents, now the largest in the San Gabriel Valley.

The city has cut the ribbon on 30 tiny homes, each measuring 64 square feet, to provide supported shelter for unhoused residents on a parking lot at Montebello-Commerce Metrolink Station, the Whittier Daily News reported.

“I’m ecstatic for today,” Mayor Kimberly Cobos-Cawthorne said of the program officials are calling Operation Stay Home. “This is essentially giving the safety and privacy we all deserve.”

The housing huts, each with a door flanked by miniature windows, are among other tiny home villages springing up across the state to house a growing number of homeless residents. Last fall, the city of Baldwin Park opened its own village of 25 tiny homes.

The Montelbello village was funded by support from the City of Montebello, the San Gabriel Council of Governments and the San Gabriel Regional Housing Trust. The cost of the tiny homes was not disclosed. In Los Angeles, such homes have cost between $44,000 per bed and $130,000 per bed to build, when factoring in infrastructure.

The tiny homes in Montebello can fit a bed, desk, shelves and some living amenities. Each manufactured home can fit up to three people – they will house single adults, or two parents and a child. The homes are lined up in rows within a mobile home-style park on the Metrolink lot.

There aren’t any kitchens or bathrooms. Instead, the city will provide three meals a day, secured site access, 24-hour security, laundry and bathroom and shower services, and connections to health and mental health services.

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The tiny homes will provide homes for up to 120 residents a year for three months, until they’re placed in permanent housing.

The program was designed by the Montebello Community Assistance Program, which includes a paramedic/firefighter, two social workers and a housing manager, who work with homeless people in the city. In 2020, there were 170 homeless residents in the city, according to the latest count.

The cost to put in sewer and water lines and install the homes was about $500,000, Montebello Fire Chief Fernando Pelaez said. Annual operating cost is about $750,000.

More than 20 residents have signed up for homes, and will move in over the next few weeks, he said.

Montebello Councilman Salvador Melendez said he likes the tiny home approach, as opposed to other cities that build homeless shelters.

“It’s an opportunity for those individuals to get on their feet and get the services they need, and be protected by society,” Melendez said. “The location works out. It really is for the homeless population. It took a long time but I’m certainly happy for the end result.

[Whittier Daily News] – Dana Bartholomew

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