LOS ANGELES — For the first time in five years, Carla Villavicencio has a place that feels like home. A place with a kitchen, private bathroom and warm bed to sleep at night.

“I finally slept. I can finally say that I slept. Not rested, but slept,” Villavicencio said.

What You Need To Know

  • Northeast New Beginnings in Cypress Park has 95 beds and 24/7 wrap-around services from the JWCH Institue, a nonprofit health agency that specializes in medical care and mental health services for the homeless community

  • Its first-of-a-kind model includes kitchens and private bathrooms inside each of its 34 units, and no rules against pets or couples (an effort to eliminate any barriers to entry)

  • City Councilmember Eunisses Hernandez who represents District 1 debuted the shelter in early January alongside Mayor Karen Bass and LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis

  • According to a recent audit from the LA City Controller's office, there are only about 16,100 interim shelter beds available at any given time to service the nearly 46,260 people experiencing homelessness in the city

Villavicencio is the first resident at Northeast New Beginnings, a new interim housing facility in Cypress Park that offers shelter and services for people experiencing homelessness.

Villavicencio’s journey here was long and hard-fought. She’s a mother of four, who fell into homelessness after what she describes was an abusive marriage and then, due to poverty, lost custody of her children.

Villavicencio said she turned to drugs to self-medicate and survive on the streets until she decided enough was enough and that she would take steps to recover for herself — and for her kids — by accepting temporary housing.

“It just called home to me,” she said. “And it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to call something home.”

One of the first people who greeted Villavicencio was Cheryl Morris, program manager at Northeast New Beginnings. It’s operated by the JWCH Institute, a nonprofit health agency that specializes in medical care and mental-health services for the homeless community.

“This is more than a room with a bed,” Morris said. “It’s a village.”

JWCH offers 24/7 wraparound services at the site, including problem-solving counseling, substance-use counseling and harm reduction services, crisis intervention and conflict resolution, primary, behavioral and mental-health care, and employment readiness and job placement support.

Morris said the facility is a first-of-its kind model to interim housing that Los Angeles hasn’t seen yet. People can move in with their partners or their pets, or even people they’ve connected with at their encampments.

“We don’t want to create any barriers,” Morris said. “I think this model will work because more people will want to go in. And another difference is, they’re getting to choose who they go in with. It’s so important. They get to say ‘we can all live together’ because we’ve been doing it in our encampment for years. So, they’re comfortable. When you’re comfortable, it makes life so much easier.”

They also have kitchens and private bathrooms, something rarely seen on tiny home campuses.

“You don’t have to go outside and stand in line,” Morris said.

They also offer free medical services, including vision and dental on-site, and they work hand-in-hand with the LA General Medical Center, in case more services are needed.

Morris explained how originally, the site was set up to hold 75 beds, but that number received pushback from city officials who wanted at least more than 100. She said they decided to add a bed with a privacy screen inside some kitchens, which increased their bed count to 95. But she sais that in order to do that safely, they had to dismantle the stoves in the kitchen as well.

“I was really disappointed about that because we’re trying to teach them independence, and cooking your own meal is a big part of that,” Morris said.

Morris added that another major hurdle with this model is securing enough funding to make it work. She said these services are in high demand, but the pool of candidates willing to put in the effort is small, and lately, they have been losing staff to attrition.

“We need more money,” Morris said. “Having to get staff, having to get enough staff and having people that want to do the work, I think they need to consider putting more money into the program.”

During a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the facility on Jan. 3, Mayor Karen Bass highlighted the reasons why she believes this interim shelter model, which offers a care-first approach, will be key in her administration’s fight against homelessness.

“We demonstrated last year that people are willing to leave the streets. They just need a place to go,” Bass said. “The challenge this year is to make sure that we have facilities exactly like this.”

Councilmember Eunisses Hernandez, whose office was part of the planning and building process for the site, said now that the city and county are locking arms, the city will increase their efforts to build shelters like Northeast New Beginnings.

“We need to keep building these,” said Hernandez, who represents District 1 in LA. “I know that with the mayor and Supervisor Solis and that partnership, we’re going to be able to expand these models all across our city, but all across the county as well.”

Both city and county officials said this model is unique because it gives shelter clients independence and dignity in their journey to permanent housing. It’s something Morris said makes all the difference for her clients, including Villavicencio, who said she’s finally ready to go on that road for herself — and for her children.