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Manteca looks at 64-square-foot transitional houses for homeless
City exploring most effective and cost efficient options
cantu shelter
Mayor Ben Cantu inspects the bunk bed that’s part of the 64-square-foot Pallet Homes that are used for transitional homeless housing.

A 64-square-foot aluminum frame structure is credited with helping get 405 homeless individuals off the streets, into jobs, and securing housing on their own.

Tacoma in Washington has been using the Pallet Homes for the past 4½ years in conjunction with outreach services aimed at addressing various issues and making the homeless employable. That has led to the Tacoma effort to enjoy an 89 percent success rate with the 450 people that stayed in the transitional housing over that time period to being able to secure housing in their own.

Manteca city officials — along with several from Tracy — attended a demonstration Tuesday afternoon at the Civic Center to see the units up close and how quickly they can be assembled and take apart.

Deputy City Manager Toni Lundgren indicated the presentation is part of the city’s effort to explore the most effective and cost efficient ways of dealing with homeless issues.

One of the biggest issues is securing cost effective transitional housing while homeless access services to make them employable and to house them initially when they obtain jobs.

Without some form of transitional housing where the homeless can stay while working with social workers and others while they are being helped, it is difficult to achieve results.

To build a permanent structure  for such housing  that is similar to an apartment complex can run from $200,000 to $250,000 per unit. The completely equipped Pallet Home delivered and assembled cost $10,000 a unit. There is a  larger 100-square-foot Pallet Home that can sleep four and are typically used for families cost more.

Unlike the tent the city is currently renting for $10,000 a month for the warming center on the former Qualex property in Industrial Park Drive, the Pallet Homes offer privacy and security. The can sleep one or two people on bunk beds. The homeless are able to secure their belongings when they are not sleeping in the housing. They have LED lighting, air conditioning, heating, electrical outlets, windows, and bunk beds.

Having a place to safely secure their belonging is a big issue with many homeless who are living on the streets.

There are 50 communities now using the housing originally produced to serve as emergency housing after the Katrina disaster in New Orleans. That collectively represents 2,000 beds. The closest cities to Manteca using them are Fresno, Santa Cruz, San Jose, and Santa Rosa. Berkeley is getting ready to use them as well.

The 700-pound structures take a half hour to 45 minutes to assemble. Once assembled, they can be moved to other locations as they are designed to be able to be picked up by a forklift.

The aluminum frame secured fiberglass reinforced plastic panels effectively reflect the light and heat. Also, in the rare event of damage, panels can simply be removed and replaced.

Units have withstood 120 mph winds.

They can go on any level surface — parking lots, dirt fields, unused grassy areas, and such.

The only site work connected directly to the structure being functional is the fact every unit needs a dedicated 120 amp service.

The Pallet Homes are typically sited with portable showers and restrooms as well as the services needed to get the homeless off the streets and into jobs.

The Spartan design is on purpose. That’s because by simply addressing basic needs while the homeless are “stabilizing” so they can get on their feet and returning to work, they don’t get too comfortable.

Typically homeless will stay in one of the units three or six months before they have saved enough money to secure their own housing.
The units are easy to clean as they can simply be hosed down inside and out.

Santa Rosa was able to get their homeless navigation center complete with 50 Pallet Housing units and other temporary structures such as restrooms, showers, and support services up and running in 10 days.

Manteca, last year while exploring the rough costs of putting in place a permanent structure for a homeless shelter with an open floorplan for 218 people discovered it would cost between $3 million and $5 million. By contrast, you could secure transitional housing that is ready to be used minus the site work and electrical connecting for $1,040,000. That doesn’t include auxiliary modular buildings to lei use space for needed services.

The city would have the option of securing less housing and see how effective that it is for a transitional housing program and then add additional units if needed.

They also wouldn’t be tied into one site permanently given the units can be easily relocated.

Manteca currently is pursuing 8.04 acres along South Main Street on the western edge of the Manteca Industrial Park as a location for a homeless navigation center and a possible affordable housing project that could be a partnership with a non-profit or a for-profit entity.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email