Unhoused Mother Says Tiny Homes' Transitional Program in El Cajon is An ‘Everything Changer'


For months, Brianna Allard and her two young daughters called their car home. Now, however, they're getting a new lease on life in a tiny structure.

“We came here, she opened the door and I was so happy. It’s a real step up for us," said Allard, a 24-year-old mother of two.

A village of six tiny homes for women on Meridian Baptist Church's property in El Cajon, was finished in late 2022. Allard and her daughters moved in last month and are among the first to take part in the pilot program, which ends in December.

“For me, it helps to fulfill the mission of the church and my personal mission to do good in the community," said Pastor Rolland Slade.

Pastor Slade teamed with the nonprofit Amikas and other organizations to make the project, which makes temporary shelter for unhoused women a reality.

“What if another 100 or 1,000 churches in San Diego decided to build six? So we'd go from six cabins on this property to 600 or 6,000," the pastor said. "Now, we're really putting a dent in."

The idea of using tiny homes for unsheltered people is gaining steam.

Over the weekend, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced 1,200 would be made available to cities across the state, with 150 of them here in San Diego.

Allard said it’s a good idea that should include more than the 150 homes planned.

The homes on Pastor Slade’s church property, which he describes as "emergency sleeping cabins," are 96 square feet. They come equipped with beds, some storage space and heating, but no plumbing or kitchen appliances since they're meant to be transitional housing for up to 90-days.

Allard and her daughters are now maximizing their happiness in a tiny place that provides space for her little ones to play and has given them a temporary roof over their heads after a $300 rent increase sent them spiraling into homelessness.

“They’re way happier! They weren’t like that a few months ago, they were way stand-offish," Allard said of her children. “I had a lot of restless nights due to people walking past or people shining flash lights in. It’s terrible. Some people wake you up saying, 'You can’t stay here.' To have to deal with that and wake up and try and be a good mom or wake up and try and find a job -- it was a difficult time.”

Now, the 24-year-old certified nursing assistant says she’s no longer suffering from the stress of living on the streets.

"It put me in a better space," she said. "I found a lot of peace being here. It’s amazing! I got myself into nursing school. Now I’m just working on a job.”

The county will be in charge of the State of California’s tiny home program.

A statement from San Diego Board of Supervisors Chair,  Nora Vargas' office, reads in part:

"Our county is developing a plan and will be working with the State to determine when, where and how these 150 small homes will be allocated. Providing shelter and support for our unsheltered residents is a top priority for Chairwoman Nora Vargas. "


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