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Safe Parking Programs
ONC Editorial

May 31, 2023

The Explainer discusses the implementation of Safe Parking Programs to ameliorate COVID-19's negative effects on homeless populations.

Since the pandemic struck three years ago, many homeless people have been forced to live in doubled-up situations. 

In California, a program called Safe Parking was designed for people experiencing homelessness to regain stable housing. The program provides secure places, basic sanitary services and social services for people living in their vehicles. They also work to build relationships between the homeless and emergency shelters.

The first Safe Parking Program was started by New Beginnings in 2004 in Santa Barbara. Currently, there are 43 communities with Safe Parking programs, most located on the west coast. This geography bias may be largely related to the fact that Safe Parking is a west coast phenomenon, as the mild climate makes sheltering in cars a more feasible way of living.

The Safe Parking program has not been sanctioned by federal funders yet. Kristine Schwarz, executive director of New Beginnings said, “Things like lot management, staffing, porta potty operations — those can’t be paid for through anything other than local or private funding.”

Although there is a possibility the Safe Parking Program can inspire federal funding, it is still unknown whether it can be a model for the whole country to implement. Moreover, the needs of the homeless community are continuously changing. In response, much research is currently being conducted to evaluate the long-term impact of COVID-19 on the homeless population.

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