Safe Parking and a Personal Story

Every week for the last several, the Ad Hoc Committee on Building and Grounds Security has been providing information and insight into Safe Parking and the Tacoma/Pierce County Safe Parking Network pilot project. We have been investigating how participating as a Safe Parking Network location can help improve the security of our building and grounds while acting on our principles, particularly our affirmation of the “inherent worth and dignity of every person” and “justice, equity and compassion in human relations.”

We are working on an FAQ that we think will reinforce and reiterate much of what we’ve written and said and will summarize our responses to many of the questions and concerns from members of the congregation that we have read and heard. And you will have the opportunity to support – or not support – TUUC moving forward to participate as a Safe Parking Network pilot project site. We are looking for consensus about the opportunity to express radical love for those in our community who are living in their cars.

And now I want to tell you a personal story. Yesterday, my husband Dave and I were delivering warm clothes and some food to the Temporary Emergency Micro Shelter (TEMS) on east 60th street in Tacoma. They mentioned the need for a can opener, so Dave and I drove off to buy one. We tried the nearby Dollar Tree. The can openers there did not seem very sturdy, and as I was walking toward our warm car to drive to the Safeway, I passed a young woman trying to tape plastic over a broken rear window. Her car was packed with blankets and belongings and her largish dog. The inside door panels were missing. She was struggling with the plastic. And it was windy and cold with snow on the way. I know that with just a slight twist of luck I could be that woman. 

My parents always told me – and I always believed – that hard work yielded success. I know now that is not always true. Success is far more complex than that. As is becoming un-homed. A lost job, a medical emergency, a divorce, an abusive relationship, a financial setback . . . so many possible events that can change a life from being economically stable to economically unstable. Throw in growing income inequality and lack of affordable housing as multipliers and the picture becomes even more grim.

A wise activist told me: Someone who tells you they choose to live on the street is saying that because it’s too painful and brings too much shame to tell the truth – that they feel they have no choice. Who truly would choose to live on the street or in a car, constantly on alert for approaching danger? Not many.

Tahoma Unitarian Universalist Congregation has an opportunity to provide a bit of security to a few people in this situation by becoming part of the Tacoma/Pierce County Safe Parking Network pilot project. Please think about it.

Gratefully and with respect,

Cindy Hackett, Member of the Ad Hoc Committee on Building and Grounds Security