Fifteen TUUC congregants – with important support from TUUC Minister, Rev. Dr. Linda Hart, and TUUC Church Administrator, Libby Ball – are truly helping create a revolution powered by good boundaries, kindness, and compassion for those living in their vehicles. Every visit to tidy the porta-potty, clean the handwashing station and make sure it has hand soap and clean water, pick up trash, and welcome new guests is living the words we all speak on Sundays about sharing love beyond our walls. Our community – and our presence in our community – is better for our work.
Recently County Executive Bruce Dammeier vetoed County Ordinance 2022-4 (Interim Regulations Expanding Homeless Parking Sites) which had been passed by the County Council. If passed, the ordinance would have supported civic entities in their effort to provide Safe Parking sites. The veto will not impact the four existing Safe Parking sites (two in Tacoma, two in Pierce County) on the grounds of religious facilities, including TUUC. I hear County Executive Dammeier’s reasons — the ordinance would short circuit the public engagement process and potentially erode public trust in Safe Parking — but am disappointed. I agree with Matt Driscoll of the Tacoma News Tribune who responded that this is not the time to delay opportunities to extend Safe Parking to more folks. (For more information, context and perspective, check out the News and Information box on the top right of the Tacoma Pierce County Coalition to End Homelessness’ webpage.)
As you can imagine, the issue is not simple. Public engagement – as we knew and learned even more about by our own early challenges with our neighbors – is critical to the success of the program. And the logistics – including cost – of supporting several small sites would be difficult. That said, Safe Parking has proven to be cost and human effective. It works. And with the current and ongoing crisis of the lack of affordable housing, Safe Parking provides early intervention and connection with services for those living in their vehicles.
As I write, we currently have three vehicles, six guests, and three dogs on site. These numbers are dynamic as people move into housing and new guests arrive. We continue to provide supportive, sanitary, and safe space for guests living in vehicles, and a tidier presence in the neighborhood.
TUUC is fortunate to be one of the four sites supported by Pierce County funding. Our congregation needs only to provide the volunteers to host guests and maintain the site. Site maintenance takes about 30 minutes each day. We try to have two volunteers each shift.
We need more volunteers willing to do a regular volunteer shift each week or be willing to substitute for volunteers who are away. Several of us are working multiple shifts to keep our site an asset to our guests and our neighbors. We’d like to share this valuable experience with more congregants. We’re not asking for financial support…just a little time and energy. What we do every day of every week matters. Please consider joining us in making a difference.
Housing Insecurity will be the focus of the Sunday, May 15th Worship Service. Several members of the TUUC Social Justice Committee Subcommittee on Housing Insecurity and site volunteers will be available following the service to answer any questions you might have about our work. We also invite you to email us at email@example.com to volunteer and ask questions. We look forward to hearing from you.
Committee member, Volunteer Coordinator and Site Volunteer