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Village of shelter units celebrates one year of housing Riverside’s homeless

Tuesday marked the one-year anniversary of when 30 temporary-shelter units were built near Massachusetts Avenue, which have since housed over 100 individuals experiencing homelessess.

In early 2020, Riverside’s Office of Homeless Solutions partnered with City Net Riverside to open and operate the Riverside Community Shelter Village. The 8-by-8 dwellings are stationed in what was once an unused lot near the city’s access center on Hulen Place.

City Net, a non-profit that provides a variety of services including outreach, case management, and operation of shelters, is responsible for the day-to-day operations. These include services like 24/7 security, daily meals, showers and connection to permanent housing and work connections.

“The city is very pleased with the operations of the pallet shelter and this is truly a private-public partnership,” said Hafsa Kaka, officer of homeless solutions for Riverside. “The fact that this is a non-congregate shelter is so important due to COVID.”

Kaka said she has been contacted by over 50 city offices asking how they could also develop non-congregate shelters once they saw what Riverside’s partnership accomplished during the pandemic.

Matt Bates, executive vice president for City Net, said the style of pallet shelter used for the Community Shelter Village is becoming more sought after for their temporary yet durable design.

“Relatively quickly we took something that was an underutilized asset and turned it into a temporary housing model that can all be rolled off and relocated, disassembled, stored, reused or sent off,” Bates said. “There’s a lot of promise to this model as a shelter model.”

When a homeless individual comes to the City Net staff at the Community Shelter Village, Bates said there is no one typical case and every case’s barriers are unique to the individual, so they work with every one to solve those barriers.

“We don’t put a time-stamp on when a person needs to leave the pallet shelter,” Bates said. “When people are housed and sheltered, a lot of the stress of being homeless is taken away. Food, clothing, shelter and safety are the most basic needs and it’s hard to come out of homelessness when those things are constantly under stress.”

Of the more than 100 individuals aided by the shelter in the first year of operation, over 25 percent have increased their personal income and 34 people have entered into permanent housing.