Samantha Krisa received the keys to a tiny aluminum cabin in Redondo Beach this week — and, for the first time in months, felt like she could really breath.

She was handed the keys along with a big hug from a caseworker. Both ladies were nearly in tears.

“It looks a lot bigger than it does from the outside,” Krisa said. “This is awesome.”

The aluminum cabin is one of Redondo Beach’s newly erected Pallet housing units, part of a temporary shelter the city is trying out to reduce homelessness in the city.

The night before moving into the new 15-unit shelter, Krisa suffered through a very wet night besieged by rainfall.

The 28-year-old has spent the past four years living on the streets. Many nights she slept on the beach under a lifeguard stand.

“It’s a place to sleep and that’s huge,” Krisa said about her new temporary digs. “That’s really all you need is a place to sleep. You can’t sleep on the street as a girl and feel OK.”

If things go right for Krisa and she takes advantage of the onsite case managers to help her find employment and permanent housing, that night in the rain under a lifeguard tower could be the last she ever spends without a home.

“This is my own space,” she said. “This is like a sanctuary almost. I can breath and don’t have to think of anybody.”

Krisa marked the 10th resident at the Redondo Beach Pallet shelter, which was erected a few weeks ago and accepted the first residents Monday, Dec. 28. Coordinators faced a strict deadline of getting at least one resident housed before the end of the year to qualify for certain coronavirus-related federal relief funding.

The Pallet shelters, which are prefabricated 64-square-foot aluminum cabins with onsite restrooms, showers and 24-hour security, are intended as transitional housing for individuals who are homeless but committed to figuring out permanent solutions to getting off the streets. The shelter itself is also temporary, with the City Council so far approving it for six months.

“I am really proud of this program and I hope it works out,” said Redondo Beach Mayor Bill Brand, “and I hope that other cities consider what they can do for their homeless.”

“Times are changing,” Brand added, “and the days of ignoring this problem in hopes that it won’t affect us are over.”

Redondo Beach officials chose the location for the Pallet shelter near the South Bay Galleria, in what was part of a public works yard, so that it was away from residents and businesses.

Lisa Gray, beach cities coordinator for the nonprofit Harbor Interfaith Services, who now works onsite in a mobile office trailer, said she hopes people understand the Pallet shelter is temporary. Visitors are not allowed. There is a 10 p.m. curfew. And nobody can use drugs or alcohol. Each unit is equipped with air conditioning, heat and electricity to charge devices.

Gray was ecstatic to welcome Krisa to her temporary community on Tuesday.

“It’s just the most moving, wonderful thing,” Gray said. ” I just can’t think of a job that’s more satisfying than seeing someone who’s been on the streets who now has a safe place to go. It’s just a wonderful experience.”

Sean Serino, 31, is another new resident, who moved into a Pallet shelter Monday, Dec. 28, right before it started pouring. He hunkered down in the tiny cabin, turned on the heater and felt fortunate.

“This is going to help so much,” Serino said.

Serino was just a few credits short of graduating from UCLA with a political science degree when his parents foreclosed on their home and went bankrupt, forcing Serino onto the streets about five years ago.

Since then, he has bounced from the homes of friends and family and spent some time living in various cars that ultimately got impounded. For the past several months, he had been sleeping in a small crevice near a back alley in Redondo Beach.

At the Pallet shelter, it’s the little things that make all the difference, like not worrying about his belongings.

“I’ve had my stuff stolen so many times,” Serino. “I find a hiding spot where I think nobody will know and it gets stolen or thrown away.”

Serino said he is planning to spend his days at the shelter working to find a job, saying he’s hopeful that he can get his life back on track.

“This helps you get back on your feet,” Serino said, “because you can sleep.”

Contact Lisa Jacobs lisa.jacobs@TBRnews.com or follow her on Twitter @lisaannjacobs.

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