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Building a path to permanent housing at Esperanza Villa

July 1, 2022

Row of four Pallet shelters at Esperanza Villa
Esperanza Villa uses Pallet shelters and offers wraparound services to help people transition out of unsheltered homelessness.

In San Gabriel Valley, California, a group of unhoused people are on the path to permanent housing thanks to a Pallet shelter village. Esperanza Villa opened in late November 2021 with 25 Pallet shelters in Baldwin Park, CA. Each shelter has a bed, desk, shelving, climate control, electrical outlets to power devices, storage space for personal belongings, and a locking door. In addition to living in a dignified and private space, residents can access Pallet bathrooms and our laundry facilities. 

The service provider at Esperanza Villa is Volunteers of America Los Angeles (VOALA), a nonprofit human services organization committed to serving people in need, strengthening families, and building communities. They provide meals, case management, and housing navigation. They also connect residents to mental and physical health services. Securing vital documents such as an identification card or birth certificate is a crucial step in the path to receiving housing. VOALA staff assists residents who need them. 

VOALA Senior Program Manager Amanda Romero described the village as a safe place for our unhoused neighbors. They experience many emotions when moving in.

"It's definitely a sense of relief when they finally have a place where they're able to get services, and they're able to shower and do their laundry," she shared. 

It's definitely a sense of relief when they finally have a place where they're able to get services, and they're able to shower and do their laundry.

– Amanda Romero, VOALA Senior Program Manager

Amanda describes the site as being quiet and mellow. Many people there are seniors, while some are working or going to school. Since opening, Amanda said six people have moved out of the village and into permanent housing. It was through a combination of housing vouchers (rental assistance) and family reunification. One woman who recently moved into her own place had been experiencing homelessness off and on for ten years. The successes at the site show when people have the opportunity to stabilize and access essential services, they can take the next step.

"About four more of the participants who are living there have emergency housing vouchers, so they should be housed soon," Amanda added. "It's just a matter of finding an apartment that accepts their housing voucher."

The surrounding community is also supportive of Esperanza Villa. Leading up to the site's opening, Baldwin Park Mayor Emmanuel J. Estrada held several information sessions to explain its purpose. The move helped dispel any misgivings people may have had and provided a greater understanding of the value of transitional housing.

Amanda said the village is an excellent alternative for people who — for several reasons — won't go to a traditional congregate shelter. 

"We've gotten a variety of people from different walks of life, and we've really been able to help a lot of people," she shared. "The Pallet shelters are great because they can have their own space and sense of security and safety and a door that locks."

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