LOS ANGELES — JoAnn Branch faced homelessness for two years on Skid Rwo before finding a way to move her life forward in a new space.

“It’s very important to have my own place because I was really depressed and stuff and this is making me feel more myself. Trying to get back normal,” Branch said.

What You Need To Know

  • Hilda L. Solis Care First Village provides 232-units of modular and repurposed shipping container studio units

  • Each unit comes with a bed, TV, microwave, mini fridge and accessible bathroom

  • The site provides three meals per day, security, laundry facility, case management and supportive services

  • The site was built in about six months

In April, Branch moved into the Hilda L. Solis Care First Village in Chinatown. The $57 million project features 232-units through the construction of modular buildings and over 60 repurposed shipping containers into studio units.

Financial constraints after Branch’s husband passed away led her to homelessness — a stark reality came with everyday challenges she never imagined she would be in.

“Sleeping outside, not washing up every day. Being scared out there at night time,” she said.

The private studio units have created a peaceful environment for Branch to focus on her future. Each unit includes a bed, kitchenette, TV and an accessible bathroom.

Cheri Todoroff is the interim director with the Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative. She said repurposing shipping containers could be the answer to create faster permanent housing for more than 66,000 people experiencing homeless within LA County.

“They are the right size. They are stackable, combinable. You can move the interior walls to get the configuration that you need. They are already constructed and so you can move very quickly,” Todoroff said.

However, the location of the site in an industrial area of Chinatown has one unhoused advocate concerned. Theodore Henderson is the host of "We the Unhoused" podcast that focuses on topics that impact those who are experiencing homelessness. 

He said repurposed shipping containers are a better option than most temporary shelters that do not offer private spaces, but a construction warning sign at the site stating arsenic and lead are in the soil has him concerned.

“I think it’s a very innovative idea. The only thing that I have to offer a caveat is, we don’t have to build them in places where the health of the unhoused is compromised,” Henderson said.

For now, Branch is just grateful to find comforts of home within her own four walls.

“I can open my own refrigerator. I got my own microwave. I have my own TV. My own bathroom so that means a lot,” Branch said.

The space might be small, but the impact it is making on Branch is helping her get back to the life she once had.