LOS ANGELES — As the nation’s largest tiny home village gets ready to open in Highland Park next week, dozens of artists have been giving it a colorful makeover. The rows of formerly unremarkable white houses are now covered in bright orange butterflies, hot pink hearts, oversized fruit wedges and geometric shapes — all of them painted by up-and-coming muralists working with artist and influencer Zach Hsieh.
“A lot of the people who come into these houses are going through a lot of hardships. The art kind of acts like a distraction,” said Hsieh, who hosts the YouTube Originals competition series “Instant Influencer.”
As part of the show’s second season, Hsieh partnered with Los Angeles Councilmember Kevin de León and Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission to include a challenge that had 10 competing artists paint murals on the Arroyo Seco tiny homes’ exteriors.
“I believe murals are the only art form that breaks social class,” said Shak Smart, a professional mural artist who was painting butterflies on some of the buildings last week. “If you’re having a bad day and you walk by and see a colorful wall, it just puts you in a good mindset for that day. If we can share that as artists, that’s excellent.”
Situated in a parking lot next to the 110 freeway on Arroyo Drive in Highland Park, the Arroyo Seco Tiny Home Village consists of 117 prefabricated housing units with more than 200 beds serving a population of unhoused individuals living within a 3.5-mile radius. High-risk individuals will be given priority, including those at high risk for COVID-19, the elderly, people with disabilities and those who have a sickness, according to Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission President Rowan Vansleve.
Hope of the Valley will operate the site, providing security, drug and alcohol counseling, mental health services and permanent supportive housing placements. About 65% of those who are approached to live in a tiny home village agree to be relocated, Vansleve said, and are brought to the site along with their belongings before being put through a security and COVID check.
Designed to provide temporary shelter for six to eight months before transitioning an individual to permanent supportive housing, the tiny home village includes three hygiene trailers, on-site laundry, water bottle filling stations, designated seating for food distribution and dining, as well as lighting.
Founded in the San Fernando Valley 12 years ago with the goal of breaking the cycle of homelessness and poverty, Hope of the Valley opened LA’s first tiny home village in North Hollywood 10 months ago and has since opened additional villages in North Hollywood’s Alexandria Park, Reseda and Tarzana.
In Northeast LA, it will operate two: the Arroyo Seco Tiny Homes Village in Highland Park and another tiny home village in Eagle Rock that is expected to open before the end of the year.
The tiny home villages are part of Councilmember de León's A Way Home plan that City Council approved last month to bring 25,000 new homeless housing units online by 2025. More than 41,000 Angelenos are currently unhoused, according to the most recent homeless count.
“If LA is the nation’s epicenter of homelessness, then our district is ground zero,” de León said during the groundbreaking for the Arroyo Seco Tiny Homes Village in June. “We have more unhoused people in Council District 14 than Chicago or Houston, the No. 3 and 4 most populated cities in America,” said de León, who represents the district encompassing the Northeast neighborhoods of Boyle Heights, Eagle Rock, El Sereno, Garvanza, Glassell Park, Highland Park, Lincoln Heights and Monterey Hills.
The tiny homes in the LA villages are made by the Washington-based company Pallet.
Each measures 8-feet-by-8-feet and has a locking door, four windows with screens, heating, cooling and electricity, as well as a fire extinguisher, smoke detector and carbon monoxide monitor.
The company also provides storage and a folding bed that can be doubled up into a bunk and stowed away when not in use, as well as a kennel for pets.