South LA

Trailers in South L.A. are providing shelter for homeless families with children

A vacant lot in the Florence neighborhood is the first of 20 temporary housing sites in the state.

In early February, ten trailers were brought to South L.A. in an effort to provide temporary housing for homeless families with children. The trailers, now located on the 8500 block of South Broadway, previously served as housing units in Butte County for the first responders during the Camp Fire in 2018.

The California Department of Transportation delivered the white and blue trailers to the site of Safe Landing for Families in the Florence neighborhood, a vacant parking lot owned by the city.

The move stems from the executive order N-23-20 signed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom in January, which plans to “reduce street homelessness” and “increase housing options for those experiencing homelessness.” In doing so, the governor plans to repurpose 100 total trailers from the state fleet.

According to the governor’s office, the tenants will be provided with holistic, family-centered services and better access to long-term affordable housing.

A recent Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority report highlighted the severity of the homelessness issue, stating that in the last two years, the homeless population in the city increased by 16% to a total homeless population of 36,165 people.

“California is treating homelessness like the emergency it is and it’s going to take every level of government stepping up to do their part,” Newsom said in a press release. “State government is doing more than ever before to combat homelessness. This first wave of trailers to Los Angeles County is part of our state’s broader effort to deploy more resources directly into communities.”

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who’s the co-chair of Newsom’s Council of Regional Homeless Advisors, informed the city of Los Angeles that it is working jointly with various nonprofit and private sectors to provide homeless families with safe haven.

He revealed state plans to turn 286 state properties and vacant lots into land to be used by local governments for free to house the homeless population.

“This is what a crisis response can and should look like… we have the manifestation of collective civic action,” Ridley-Thomas said.

St. Joseph Center, a nonprofit organization that provides resources and self-reliance skills to members of the homeless community, is responsible for choosing the 10 families that would live in the trailers.

Members of their street outreach team assessed the local neighborhood and chose the recipients, along with walk-ins and referrals from the LAPD, according to the center’s Event and Communications Manager Karalee Ensign. Many of the chosen families lived in cars, run-down RV’s, or motel rooms.

Ivonne Castillo, a mother of three daughters, was chosen after getting a referral from a police officer who worked at her daughter’s school. Castillo, a high school dropout, was trying to find her family a stable shelter and was planning to return to school to earn her GED. As rent prices rose higher, however, Castillo could not afford the cost of living any longer.

Each trailer is a one bed, one bath unit, complete with a kitchen with standard appliances, a family dining area, and storage space, according to Castillo. “Pretty much everything is just comfortable, you know, you feel relieved…,” she said, “at least you have a little bit of your own there, you know, you could be yourself in there.” The site even includes a space for the families’ children to play. “They love it. they're just so happy,” says Castillo.

Newsom and Ridley-Thomas visited the Safe Landing for Families site on Monday, overseeing the quality of the trailers and speaking directly with the families inside. The two visited all 10 trailers, including Castillo’s, striking up a conversation with her and her daughters. “[Newsom] was just really nice, and I'm just thankful for this opportunity that he did, because I would have been still, you know, bouncing around not being able to afford the rent.”

The department plans to send out 20 additional trailers throughout Los Angeles, Santa Clara, Riverside, Contra Costa, and Sonoma counties in the coming weeks, Newsom said in his second State of the State Address on Feb. 19.

Upon hearing about the 20 additional trailers being revealed, Castillo feels that the trailers are a great opportunity for families that are struggling. The trailers are provided to the families for 6 months.

“We get to save up and… in the future, we’re like, wow that actually did help,” she said.