Small shelters provide shelter for the homeless in San Jose, Santa Cruz

It was built by a Santa Cruz/San Jose based non-profit Simply shelter“Micro-shelters” serve as a refuge for unhoused individuals.

It is large enough for a person to sleep in and store some of his belongings. A vent in the roof provides airflow, and a triangle-shaped opening on the side provides some sunlight. They look like storage cabinets on wheels.

“It gets you out of the weather, gives you some privacy. You don’t have to carry your own bedding. It’s very useful,” he says. Marvin Griffith.

Griffiths slept in a small shelter until recently. He stayed there for about three months before moving into temporary housing with the help of a Santa Cruz County program.

He first noticed shelters when he acquired an unhoused acquaintance. Which prompted him to communicate with Alex Londoswho started a small home business in Santa Cruz that would eventually turn into a minimalist shelter and expand to San Jose.

“Alex had the idea to create containers the size of a bicycle locker,” says the San Jose resident and NASA aerospace engineer. Jay Samson. Samson was looking for a meaningful project to participate in when he discovered the Londos Project.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Samson was taking a leadership course that required him to form a team and complete a project. While some groups were tackling simple tasks like organizing a closet, Sampson immediately thought of the small shelter project in London.

“I remembered (the tiny house project) when I was in class and said, ‘Damn, I can make hundreds of these things,’” he says. “I can bring people together and make a real difference in homelessness.” Joshua Monroy

Londos accepted his offer of help and Samson began expanding the operation into what is now known as “Simply Shelter.” Samson began holding building days at his home where dozens of volunteers showed up to work in the shelters.

“The amount of support we get is overwhelming. I mean, a lot of people are signing up and wanting to participate in some capacity,” Sampson says. “So, it’s really inspiring.”

Samson is now registering Simply Shelter as a non-profit, which will give it access to grants and the ability to hire staff. Currently, the project is mainly funded by Samsun.

So far, the team has built 12 shelters after the first two they built themselves in London. Demand for these shelters is high and the project is partnering with the Santa Cruz and San Jose Downtown Streets teams to help reach potential candidates.

A “community supervisor” program was also launched to screen potential candidates, check on shelter residents and address any problems. Sampson says they won’t open a formal waiting list until more units are built so as not to give a “false sense of hope” to people interested in them.

When speaking with potential shelter occupants, community supervisors will review a list of qualifying questions. If claustrophobia is a problem, shelters may not be appropriate, Londos says. Shelter occupants are also expected to follow certain guidelines, including a no-hoarding policy. Residents must also use the shelter for sleeping, not just as a storage unit.

Londos and Samson are happy to do their part in helping people get back on their feet. For Samson, taking on a leadership role while working at Simply Shelter is fun.

“It’s really nice to lead people, it’s fun,” Sampson says. “I’ve never driven before. I’ve avoided driving my whole life. I just chose to do my job as an engineer and never drive, so this is a big motivation for me.”

Londos says Simply Shelter is looking for more volunteers to join them on building days as winter begins. They hope to connect with others passionate about the non-homeless cause.

“You have to care if you want to get off the streets,” says Griffiths, a former tiny house resident.

Visit For more information or to volunteer.

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