By Aaliyah Murillo, Aug. 31, 2021

For over four years, Cal Poly Pomona architecture students have worked on developing a mobile dwelling project to provide not only housing, but a community for people in need. Now, the plan has secured a donation from the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, paving the way for the project to be produced.

The team was contacted by the department after the team’s May 2021 interview with ABC7. Together, they hope the mobile housing project can address the homelessness crisis in Los Angeles County.

Upper-division architecture students Jose Nuñez and Krisandra Perez developed the final touches on the design last semester. Their main goal was to provide durable, yet reusable, materials for the community to use lower labor and cost. The students worked in groups, focusing on different components of the design.

Nuñez’s group worked on developing a do-it-yourself structure made from plywood. Each material can fit into itself, requiring little to no additional hardware and tools. With this method, the community would be able to sustain its environment without any additional, outside resources.

“It’s created as an Ikea booklet with instructions,” said Nuñez. “They do not need any training.”

Courtesy of Jose Nunez

Perez said that each community is envisioned with a community center, health center and activities center where new material for the dwelling structures will be made and processed to continue expanding the community over time. Each community would also provide a community garden that members will maintain, eat from and profit from at farmers markets.

These communities will be created using preexisting shipping trailers, giving families the opportunity to relocate their homes if necessary. The design also gives these structures the ability to provide relief during natural disasters.

Courtesy of Jose Nunez

The project’s do-it-yourself design keeps costs down relative to other similar projects.

A recently launched tiny home village in the San Fernando Valley totaling $8.6 million, with each bed costing $43,000. The students’ design means the project can be self-sustaining and encounter less red tape, with a projected cost of $20,000 to $35,000 per unit.

Behnam Samareh, a lecturer in the Department of Architecture whose students advance the project year-after-year, has been working with The Salvation Army’s rehabilitation program that helps people by providing a month’s worth of resources to better themselves. After the program is completed, however, most of these individuals are placed back on the streets, since they come to the center homeless. Samareh wants the mobile dwellings to be the second or third step for the people with the goal of bringing them back into society.

“This has been a long time in the coming, and you know what? We are not giving up,” said Samareh. “It’s an issue that has been around for a long time.”

According to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, there were 63,706 people experiencing homelessness in LA County in 2020, a 13.2% increase from 2019 when the total was 56,257. With the homeless population rising in the county, and in other parts of the United States, Samareh would like for this type of project to be implemented at other universities and colleges throughout America.

“What is missing is the will,” added Samareh. “We have to want to do this and say, ‘Yes, we want to put our effort behind this.’”

Feature image courtesy of Jose Nunez

Correction: This article was edited on Sept. 1 to correct mention of the source of the projects’ funds as a “private investor;” the project received backing from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. 

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