This photo was taken in early August, showing around 17 RVs. (SFVS Staff)

For 37-year-old Coral Ramirez, a struggling part-time restaurant worker and musician, the last month has brought a quick succession of unexpected and extreme challenges – from living in appalling third-world conditions at the makeshift RV park in Sylmar that received a court order to shut down, to ending up at a temporary shelter in Lake View Terrace with fellow suddenly-homeless renters from the Hubbard Street property.

But for tonight and the time being, Ramirez knows she will have a safe place to sleep – not a long-term home, she made sure to emphasize while speaking to the San Fernando Valley Sun/el Sol about the tiny home transitional housing community in Sun Valley where she is currently staying, but “for now I’m really glad I have somewhere to stay.”

 “I’m thankful to be here, because I know it wasn’t easy to find a spot for me as a single person,” said Ramirez, explaining that families with children had priority over singles for transitional housing placements. “It was really hard for them, but I’m finally here.”

According to Ramirez, each person in the Sun Valley tiny home village – which has a community area, meal service and on-site laundry facilities – is assigned a caseworker to connect them with needed services, with the end goal of helping them secure permanent, affordable housing. While there isn’t a specific time limit for residents, their progress is assessed every 90 days, explained Ahmad Chapman, director of communications for the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), which facilitated the placements.

While Ramirez said she greatly appreciates the help, she said she’s eager to “get my own place soon” and “finally put the whole nightmare” behind her, an ordeal she shared with at least a few dozen others – individuals, couples and children – who were forced to vacate the RV rentals on the private property owned by Cruz Florian Godoy in late July.

Aerial shots of the Sylmar property on Hubbard Street that turned its backyard lot into a makeshift RV park. The property owner, Cruz Godoy, was ordered on July 26 to remove all the RVs from the property. The left photo was taken in early July when more than 20 RVs were kept in the backyard.

Kurt Cabrera-Miller, president of the Sylmar Neighborhood Council, said that when Godoy appeared in court on July 26, she was fined, charged with two misdemeanors and given 45 days to clean up the property. She is scheduled to return to court Sept. 7 to give a progress report on the status of the mandated clean up, including bringing the property into compliance with applicable city codes and any court orders, vacating all tenants, removing the RVs from her property and clearing out all waste and debris.

To date, power at the property is still shut off, and furniture, refrigerators, mattresses, box frames and other trash have been moved to the curb, said Cabrera-Miller. In addition, he said that the LA County Department of Public Health has conducted on-site inspections in response to allegations of chemicals being sprayed throughout Godoy’s property.

But despite the looming court date, Cabrera-Miller said that local neighbors are still reporting that most of the RVs appear to remain on site, power generators can still be heard operating day and night, and they suspect some renters may still be living there. 

“The situation is still a problem and needs to be resolved,” said neighbor Nancy Caino.

Ramirez and the handful of other former RV tenants residing in the Sun Valley tiny home village, including Jesus Rodriguez, said they’re taking things one day at a time. Rodriguez said he’s grateful for the chance to share a tiny home with one of his former RV neighbors. The rest, he explained, accepted other housing placements or declined further help after receiving funds to help pay for relocation costs from the Los Angeles Housing Department (LAHD).

“I’m happy I have somewhere safe to be,” said Rodriguez. But, he admitted, he does miss the camaraderie and sense of community they shared when they were all staying at the temporary park shelter, “sharing meals together, talking and supporting each other.”

“We all lived through the same thing so we understood each other,” he said. Of course, he emphasized, the tiny homes “are so much better” than the horrific conditions in the RVs.

A Challenging Journey

Debris and sewage from the makeshift RV park in Sylmar that has seeped into the neighborhood. 

Unfortunately, explained Ramirez, getting from point A (suddenly being told they had to leave the RV rentals) to where she is today (staying in a transitional tiny home) has been a frustrating and sometimes confusing process. Regardless, she said she’s “very thankful” for everything, including the expected financial relocation assistance being provided by LAHD to her and other former tenants who lived on the Hubbard Street property.

“People do not forfeit any rights as tenants regardless of the situation, such as the RVs in Sylmar,” said Sharon H. Sandow, public information director of LAHD. “The law doesn’t distinguish based on what the tenants know or didn’t know; the weight of the law falls on the property owner or landlord who knowingly profits from their rental business.”

Looking back, Ramirez said she’s still surprised by everything that has happened – from feeling forced to put up with the inhumane and foul living conditions in the RVs on Godoy’s property because it was all she and the others could afford, to the stress of suddenly having nowhere to go, to today – actually feeling hopeful about the future.

“Am I stable for now? Yes, but not too stable, not too comfortable, because this is only temporary,” she said, stressing that her primary goal is to be independent. “I want to move on soon and go find a little spot just for myself, like a garage or a studio.”

Despite the negative experiences and circumstances, she’s lived through, Ramirez said she’s feeling genuinely positive about her future for the first time in a very long time.

“They say things happen for a reason, and maybe that’s true,” she mused. “I am feeling a lot better right now. I just want to move forward and keep working for a better life.”

The San Fernando Valley Sun/el Sol continues to follow those who lived at the Sylmar makeshift RV park.