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Building Shelter for People Experiencing Homelessness

April 23, 2020

With the spread of COVID-19, Housing Matters in Santa Cruz was faced with a time-sensitive challenge: how to protect the homeless from coronavirus? Housing Matters operates four shelter programs on its campus in Santa Cruz, which collectively provide beds for nearly 200 people at any given time. That’s nearly half of all the shelter beds in Santa Cruz County.

The team at Housing Matters recognized that people experiencing homelessness don’t have the privilege to shelter in place at home, because people facing homelessness don’t have a home — and are perhaps the most vulnerable to the virus.

“We needed to expand shelter bed spacing quickly for COVID-19 relief efforts. Our first step was to quickly erect tents on campus,” said Phil Kramer, Housing Matters Executive Director. “But we wanted to supplement with something that also served the long-term shelter needs of people experiencing homelessness.”


New Shelters, Built in Just One Day

Housing Matters contacted Pallet to expand distancing between residents of the Paul Lee Loft, one of Housing Matters’ four shelters. Pallet’s durable, portable, and freestanding shelters were delivered and built in just one day, and will replace tents that were previously set up at the site. Each structure will shelter one person.


“Pallet shelters are a great solution,” said Tom Stagg, Housing Matters Director of Programs. “They’re durable, affordable, and comfortable. And they’ll be of use even once this crisis is behind us.”

Unlike permanent facilities, which could take months or years to build, Pallet’s shelters are assembled in less than an hour each, allowing cities like Santa Cruz the ability to rapidly provide shelter for residents experiencing homelessness.

How Pallet’s Shelters are Built

Pallet’s personal, dignified shelters are designed to be assembled quickly, providing shelter to those in need as fast as possible. To speed up the installation process, the shelters are pre-built in seven panels at Pallet’s Seattle-area factory headquarters. All employees who build these shelters are formerly homeless, addicted, or incarcerated themselves, and have found stability through building shelter for those without shelter.

When a city is ready to install Pallet shelters, the pre-made shelter panels are shipped on a wood pallet with finishing materials (like nuts, bolts, and bunk beds) to their installation site, where a team can quickly put the panels together.


Made of durable and insulated composite materials, each shelter is easy to clean and has its own locking door for security and privacy. Folding bunk beds provide a place to sleep at night but can be folded against the wall during the day to make more space to move around during the day. Each shelter also includes shelves for storage and windows for ventilation. Residents in Pallet shelters have wall-mounted heaters for personal climate control.

Due to the shelter’s structural aluminum floor, no site preparation is necessary as long as the ground is relatively level. See how the shelters were assembled at the Housing Matters site in the photo gallery below:

Photos courtesy of Soil and Sea Photography


Learn More About the Santa Cruz Shelter Site

To learn more about the Santa Cruz shelter community, Pallet’s personal shelter options, or other general questions, please contact us.

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