The Oakland City Council has unanimously approved $300,000 for a safe parking program for homeless Oaklanders through the Interfaith Council of Alameda County.
Rev. Ken Chambers, founder of the Interfaith Council, has been working with the city to develop the program using church parking lots.
“I thank the Interfaith Council, and the many congregations themselves, who have stepped up, and offered to use their properties for solutions like safe parking spaces for homeless people who are living in vehicles,” said Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, who called for this assistance in April.
“By creating safe parking spaces, and ultimately, tiny homes and more, in partnership with our congregations, with access to toilets, water, services and more, we can help remedy this crisis, and help people get into better situations,” said Kaplan.
West Side Missionary Baptist Church and four other West Oakland churches have offered their lots, and will use the funding to ensure that the lots offer sufficient safety for people living in their cars, like fencing and night lights, as well as porta-potties and wash stations. “We have to be sure we actually have a safe environment before we fill the lots,” said Rev. Chambers.
Churches that offer their parking lots will receive funding to hire a car park coordinator ($20,000-$25,000 a year). The program will provide the safety measures, bathrooms, and other services.
Rev. Chambers said the program is meant to be a temporary, emergency solution to protect those who sleep in their cars and provide them with wraparound services, including weekly shower services by Dignity on Wheels, counseling, referrals, and other human services to help them into transitional or permanent housing.
Those who utilize the car park will be able to stay as long as they need, and will have to agree to a set of rules, including remaining inside the lot from 7 p.m. – 7 a.m. without visitors.
West Side Missionary already hosts two tiny homes built by Laney College’s Carpentry Department in its parking lot, housing two Laney athletes, a third to come. Each of these students will receive a $100 stipend for eight volunteer hours per month, each, of cleaning and maintaining the car park.
While there is no comprehensive count of homeless people living in cars in Oakland, a 2017 EveryoneCounts survey reports 8 percent of the 457 homeless people surveyed sleep in their non-RV vehicle (the car park will not host RVs).
The total number of homeless people in Oakland is estimated to have surpassed the last count of 2,761, suggesting that at least 200 people in Oakland live in their cars. Rev. Chambers thinks it could be twice that, maybe more.
The City of Oakland has registered 36 people who live in their cars who have reached out to health and human services.
Those already registered will be the first to inhabit the car parks, 10 cars per lot.
As needed, an intake coordinator, yet to be designated, will go out to homeless encampments to give out care packages and register more people in need of a safe car park.