Over the past week, Santa Barbara County erected 20 tiny trailer homes for homeless individuals in the parking lot of the Isla Vista Community Center. The temporary shelters are expected to begin intake on Monday.
The need for temporary homeless shelters in Isla Vista was brought about by the pandemic. Kimberlee Albers, homeless assistance program manager for the county, explained that when COVID-19 first hit in March and led to a slowdown of activity on and near the UCSB campus, the less crowded and active Isla Vista was met with an influx of homeless individuals.
The increase in encampments, she said, led to a decrease in health and safety in I.V.’s parks, particularly because the increased density was a pandemic risk.
Seeking a solution to the issue, the county put out a request for proposal and received a response from Good Samaritan, which recommended using temporary housing units made by Washington state-based company Pallet Shelters.
Accompanied by Good Samaritan Executive Director Sylvia Barnard, Ms. Albers visited a pop-up of Pallet Shelters that City Net had set up in Riverside. Both were impressed with the set up and decided it was exactly what was needed in Isla Vista.
Ms. Barnard told the News-Press that Good Samaritan and the county decided on using Pallet Shelters because they are cost effective and allow homeless individuals to be sheltered without crowding them together.
“It creates a non-congregate shelter setting and it was cost effective,” she said.
This was echoed by Ms. Albers.
“We consider this a non-congregate shelter model. Because of the pandemic we wanted to make sure we were doing something as safely as possible,” she said.
According to Ms. Barnard, each unit has a light, a heater, a two-plug electrical outlet, and two beds. Though each Pallet Shelter can hold two people, as a precaution due to COVID-19, homeless individuals will not share units unless they were staying in the same set before going through intake. Therefore, it’s unlikely that it will be filled to its full 40-person capacity.
The pallet shelter project is a six-month effort that Ms. Albers said will “for sure” only go on for that length of time. During its run, the county is hopeful that homeless individuals who are taken in can be transitioned into a different housing arrangement. This could mean interim housing, another shelter, residential treatment, or permanent housing.
“We’re hopeful many people as possible will have some other shelter or housing option,” she said.