ARCADIA, Calif. - The City of Arcadia put forth a proposal for a tiny home village in the community following concerns over the growing homeless population. On Friday, the proposal sparked various reactions from the city's residents.
If approved, city officials will explore the option of placing the village at the Peck Park utility access road.
"The proposed site is in a part of Arcadia that is an industrial area. We tried to find a place that wasn't near or directly adjacent to homes, schools or parks," said Councilmember April Verlato.
Verlato said there are now more than 100 people living on the streets in Arcadia, a number that grew dramatically in 2020.
"I find that we're at a critical moment of homelessness in the state of California and not only in the state of California, in LA County and now what we're seeing more and more is it's spilling into the San Gabriel Valley and where we were once immune. We didn't care, it was all happening somewhere else, it's now at our doorsteps and it's in our backyards," said Verlato.
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Verlato believes the tiny homes community could be a good solution.
"The problem with having people living on the streets, they don't have access to restrooms. It's not clean. It's not sanitary. This is not the way we are safe in our community, both the housed and the unhoused. With a tiny home, you'll get a safe place to put your stuff, a safe place to sleep at night. This [tiny home village] is a place where you can go. Resources are made available at the site, case managers, housing navigators, workforce development, and medical attention," she said.
Verlato said she had concerns about the tiny home village before researching the plan.
"At first, I was just afraid of the idea. I thought it's just going to attract more homeless. As I did more and more research and saw what was happening in Redondo Beach, Riverside and Pasadena, I was reassured. You go to a shelter in Pasadena, and there's no encampments lining the streets. It's clean," she said.
However, some residents do not want a tiny home village in their community. Michelle Wu organized a protest for Saturday morning at 10 a.m. to denounce the plan.
"We're strongly protesting the tiny home program. This project brings panic, and anxiety to the residents of our peaceful community. We sincerely ask you to listen to the voice of the people and accept our opinions. This tiny home program will only attract more homeless, and cause problems," said Wu.
Wu said there will be many residents joining her for the protest on Saturday. The group will meet at the city library on the corner of Santa Anita Avenue and West Duarte Road. The protest will then move to the home of Councilmember Verlato.
Richard Allan, who tells FOX 11 he has battled homelessness for over a year, believes the tiny home project would be helpful. He became homeless after he could no longer live with his 74-year-old father due to his father needing an assisted living facility. He has moved from encampment to encampment, now finding a home at Second and Colorado Streets.
"We don't want to be here. We're here because we have no choice. We had homes at one time. We had jobs and with everything, we're stuck now. We're just being herded around from spot to spot to spot. I don't know how long we'll be able to stay here. They'll kick us out of here too," said Allan.
Allan said the encampment is a tight-knit community.
"We've grown to be a family now and we help each other out. If one goes down, you've got a bunch of friends to help you. We do the best we can," said Allan.
Allan said he would like to be housed and is willing to work anywhere to end his homelessness.
"It's hard to hold a job and come home to lay in the dirt. I'm willing to do anything. I don't care what it is. I'll clean toilets. There's no shame in nothing. Whatever it takes to get out of here," said Allan.
Allan was able to speak with Councilmember Verlato about services after she visited the encampment Friday.
The project would be a pilot program with 15 or so shelters along with restrooms, showers, case management, 24/7 security, and other resources for individuals experiencing homelessness. The project has not been approved, but the City Council voted to submit a letter of intent to the San Gabriel Valley Regional Housing Trust, and the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments to examine the possibility of a tiny home village.
You can click here for more information on the pilot program.