El Centro’s new “casitas” are a welcome change

Column: $60,000 ‘casitas’ and giant awnings: Caruso, Bass pitch cheaper homeless units

Cindy Cassella, one of the city’s so-called “casitas” at the Plaza de Armas, a $60,000 apartment block, was given a choice of two apartments. One was a small, walk-in closet, while the other was a four-unit suite with no view.

The choice did not seem to bother Cassella, who plans to move into the new apartment at the end of September.

“I had no idea what it would be like,” she said. “It’s a little hard but not too bad. All I know is that this is a great building.”

Cassella said she would give up her old apartment on Calle Las Flores in order to stay put in Plaza de Armas. She has lived in El Centro for 10 years and would like to remain in El Centro. “I don’t want to stay anywhere else. I love this neighborhood,” she said.

Cassella’s and many other residents like her are among a growing number of people who have found new homes in recent months. Last month, the city’s Housing Department announced that it had found “4,250 housing units that can be purchased and rented at a profit,” with the goal of being able to provide for at least 20,000 homeless people within a year.

Many of the tenants of the city’s two largest homeless shelters, the Metropolitan Homeless Services and Downtown Emergency Services, are already living in houses or apartments, or are living in hotels or motels, where they are often unable to find housing or any services such as diapers or shelter.

Cassella said she would like to find a place to live that would give her “a little bit more dignity.”

Cassella, 37, is one of hundreds of El Centro’s residents who have no access to the city’s new “casitas.” Cassella says she has lived here for nearly two years but would like to stay.

The “casitas

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