One city's approach to helping the homeless could be model for other neighborhoods

Phillip Palmer Image
Wednesday, July 14, 2021
This CA city's approach to help homeless could be model for others
The nonprofit group LifeMoves in Northern California has created an interim housing community on a site that was previously used as a car storage facility.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (KABC) -- Cities around the world are trying to help people who are living on the streets. In a pilot program that could prove to be a model for others to follow, the Northern California city of Mountain View has partnered with the nonprofit LifeMoves to create an interim housing community on a site that 8 months ago was a car storage facility.

"The way you operate a homeless shelter correctly, the neighbors don't know you're there, you're not standing out in the community," said Dr. Brian Greenberg of LifeMoves.

Tucked into an industrial area, infrastructure was built in under six months and storage containers were turned into dignified, safe housing for roughly 124 people who will also be provided intensive case management and support so they can move to more stable housing in 90-120 days.

"One of the goals for this program was to build something that had the ability for more than just, you know, a single adult to live in the room, but also create units for family," said Kimbra McCarthy, Mountain View city manager.

MORE | Nonprofit converting LA motels into housing for homeless veterans

A nonprofit group is working to turn at least three motels in Los Angeles into long-term housing for homeless veterans.

Many people experiencing homelessness want to stay in a general area they are familiar with and are reluctant to move to congregate shelters that sleep 20-30 people in a room -- especially those with children. But they are more likely to move if they have their own space. Of the 100 private units, LifeMoves' community has 12 for families and a playground on site for children. Whatever the household makeup, it can be accommodated here.

"Almost everyone would rather live in a place with their own heating and air conditioning, and electrical outlets rather their own tent. And it provides us at life moves an opportunity to really engage them in meaningful services," said Greenberg. "Small programs, and small pieces of land can make things better in everyone's eyes, right in all the stakeholders' eyes."

The homeless community in Mountain View is about 600 people, but this site provides 10 times the number of year-round shelter beds previously available in Mountain View. The idea is to rapidly reduce homelessness in any community by quickly creating a site that fits the needs of the individual community.

With funding for a five year program to serve about 350 people per year, LifeMoves also produced a playbook which is available on their website to help any interested party create a modular solution for homelessness in their neighborhood.

"To really make a difference, you need to have a structure that's going to last decades, right? That's going to blend into the community that can slowly transition people out of their oversize vehicles, their RVs, and out of their cars, and out of the encampments. And in in permanent housing," said Greenberg.

For more information, visit

MORE ABC7 SOLUTIONS | Nonprofit takes unorthodox approach to help SoCal homeless

Many organizations try to help or house the homeless, but one local nonprofit is using what may be seen as an unorthodox approach. Instead of a housing-first model, the organization focuses on harm reduction, by first meeting someone where they are physically and mentally.