Homelessness has long been a problem in Los Angeles, with an estimated 60,000 individuals living on the streets. Fortunately, some organizations are investing their time and money to addressing this issue.

The Hilda L Solis Care First Village, originally known as the Vignes Street Interim Housing Project, was designed by NAC Architecture and Bernards to provide refuge for the homeless in Los Angeles.

The project is named after Hilda L. Solis, the head of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, and is situated on a 4.2-acre plot of land in Downtown Los Angeles.

The housing building is made up of shipping containers and can house 232 persons who are homeless or in the process of becoming homeless.

The structure was designed by NAC Architecture and Bernards, a California-based constructor and construction management firm, in partnership with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works. The location had previously served as a parking lot and was slated to be used as a staging area for the construction of a new Men’s Central Jail.

However, in 2019, officials began looking into the possibility of repurposing the land as a homeless shelter. The county opted to continue through with the housing plans when COVID-19 struck last year.

“With the unhoused population growing and increasingly at risk during Covid-19, the need was immediate. Schedule became a critical driver,” said the team.

The team devised a series of trailers, each divided into five apartments for temporary housing. There are also two multilevel main structures, each with 132 permanent dwelling units, built out of renovated shipping containers.

Mobile modules, wood-framed prefabricated units, and recycled shipping containers were all employed as modular components.

“The shipping containers are stacked, fixed in place, and use an attached structure of open corridors and stairs to facilitate access to each unit,” NAC Architecture said.

Because the modular pieces could be built off-site, the project was completed faster.

“Design, permitting, and construction of the project was aggressively accelerated to meet the heightened need for people living on Los Angeles’ streets in the midst of a pandemic,” NAC Architecture said.

In fact, the community was finished in just six months. It also has a common building with a commercial kitchen, eating room, laundry facilities, administrative offices, manicured courtyards, parking spots for workers and residents, and a dog park, in addition to the dwelling units.

For permanent and interim residents, the facility also provides support services such as case management and counseling.

“Public Housing for those unhoused individuals on our streets, coupled with a long-term focus on ancillary services—such as mental and behavioral healthcare, which encompass true comprehensive redirection of the growing population of individuals experiencing homelessness—are long absent and much-needed infrastructure projects for our modern times,” said Bernards’ vice president Mike Funderberg.

Each container may carry two 12.5 square meter dwelling units. The crew removed wide windows in the shipping containers and properly insulated the walls and ceiling to make them more appropriate for habitation.

A bed, flat screen, mini-fridge, microwave, and private bathroom are included in each unit. Crate, a California-based firm, renovated the containers.

The walls of the buildings are painted white with bright orange and yellow accents.

When developing the structure, the crew also took safety in mind. They equipped each apartment with its own heating and ventilation systems in order to prevent the virus from spreading and to give occupants more autonomy.

The town debuted in April 2021 and was completely filled the following month, demonstrating how much people need shelter during the epidemic.

The total cost of the project was $57 million, with $52 million coming from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of the federal government. The rest was paid for by the municipality.

“I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish, and that is re-imagining Los Angeles County with steps toward our commitment towards realizing a Care First, Jail Last model,” said Solis.

You can learn more about the Hilda L. Solis Care First Village in the video below.

Homelessness is a major national issue that requires long-term solutions. We can only hope that additional communities like this are created in other regions of the nation!

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