Richard Clark found himself homeless after he says an injury prevented him from working. For the past year, a purple shed at a tiny home village in the San Fernando Valley has been his temporary home.
At just 64 square feet with two beds, it isn’t much. But for Clark, it is a major improvement over the public benches where he used to sleep. He says staffers are helping him apply for disability and hopefully find a permanent place to live.
“The services are here. You just have to take advantage of them,” he told us.
Los Angeles now has 11 tiny home villages with operations funded by the city, according to the Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA).
Chandler Blvd. in North Hollywood was the first, opening in 2021. But as these communities have expanded, so has something else: the number of emergency calls.
KTLA obtained police, fire and paramedic records which paint a picture of the care still needed by the unhoused when they are taken off the streets. Among them are calls for suspected assault, threats, weapons, suicides and overdoses.
From January through mid-September of this year, authorities responded to more than 170 calls for police, fire, or paramedics at one tiny home village in North Hollywood’s Alexandria Park that houses around 150 people.
Over the same period, records show more than 160 emergency calls to Whitsett West Village at Saticoy and the 170 Freeway, which houses 110 people – also in the San Fernando Valley.
“By no means am I surprised,” says Rowan Vansleve, the president of Hope the Mission, a nonprofit that runs six tiny home communities in L.A. “I think first and foremost, it’s a lot less than calls going to active encampments with same amount of people. Anytime you put well over 100 people in one site who are in crisis there is going to be an element of law enforcement needed.”
LAPD records show about 20% of the calls for service to two of the three North Hollywood tiny home villages are for a suspected overdose or suicide attempts. Vansleve says this speaks to the need for more behavioral health services.
“Many of our guests … have been on streets for 3, 4, 5 years. The amount of trauma that somebody has endured and depths of mental health issues and addiction issues are unprecedented,” he told us.
Vansleve believes the villages need mental health staff on-site, seven days a week to deal with urgent needs. At least one resident agrees.
“The staff is not equipped to handle the different types of situations going on in here,” said James Hill, who told us his first roommate overdosed on drugs but survived.
Even with the large need for emergency resources, neighbors we spoke to who live or have businesses near three North Hollywood tiny home villages we visited believe it is better than what existed before, or said they haven’t had any negative experiences.
“I’ve seen positives because I don’t see a lot of homeless encampments around,” says Gordon Beck. “It’s good people have a place to go.”
However, Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles attorney Shayla Myers, who represents the unhoused, worries that while the tiny homes are designed to be temporary, residents are having to stay too long because of a lack of permanent low-income housing to move to.
“Because there is so little affordable housing in Los Angeles, people are being forced to stay there for a very long time,” says Myers.
Vansleve says, on average, they are moving 11 to 14 people per month from the NoHo cabin communities into permanent homes. Whatever the success rate is, he believes, is better than the alternative of living on the streets.
“They are incredibly successful but also very imperfect.”
The North Hollywood tiny home villages we reported on are in the council district of Paul Krekorian. His office declined to comment for our story.