Safe Parking Update — Report provided at the TUUC Congregational Meeting on Sunday, June 13, 2021
The TUUC Subcommittee on Housing Insecurity (subcommittee of the Social Justice Committee) has been working toward welcoming guests again to safely park overnight in our parking lot. We are doing this as part of the Tacoma/Pierce County Safe Parking Network Pilot Program which is under the wing of Safe Sites for All, part of the loose network of organizations and entities that make up the Pierce County Coalition to End Homelessness.
Toward this goal we have:
- Drafted and mailed another letter to our housed neighbors, outlining the program and inviting them to an in-person meeting in the TUUC parking lot (with appropriate COVID cautions). Meeting included TUUC Board president, Cindy Hackett, volunteers from our team, the Safe Parking coordinator Colin DeForrest, and Tacoma Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) member Officer Craig Bennett from Tacoma Police Department.
- Met with three of our housed neighbors, listened and responded to their concerns, and reached consensus that they would give the program a fair shot.
- Subcommittee members have been spending the night in the TUUC parking lot to see what our guests might experience. We are staying in pairs for safety, so there have been two vehicles in the parking lot during the late night/early morning hours when undesirable behavior occurs.
- By staying on site, we have been able to monitor an unhoused neighbor with mental health issues who frequently sleeps on the church porch. She is familiar to the neighborhood, and due to her mental health issues, her behavior is often a nuisance to the housed neighbors. We are currently working to get her help through the city’s Coordinated Entry program to get her the services she needs, while discouraging her from sleeping on the porch, as we don’t feel that is a safe place for her to stay.
- From this experience, we feel TUUC can provide the “Safe” part of Safe Parking. We have anecdotally already seen a change in behaviors happening on/around the church facility. Such as neighbors walking around the building rather than cutting through the lot, using the portable toilet instead of the stairwells, etc. We have sanitation on site, but are currently working on relocating the hygiene station to a better spot. Moving forward we think it’s best to have at least two guests (vehicles) on site and will be working with Colin to facilitate placement of guests at our parking lot.
- We will continue to pair Site Host David Pettit with a volunteer for daily visits.
- We will continue to maintain the property: mowing, picking up trash, checking on the condition of the portable toilet and the handwashing station, etc. We have learned that a space that looks cared for is more likely to be treated with respect.
Through challenges we have faced, the subcommittee continues to engage in creative problem-solving as a team and remains committed to our goal of providing a safe place for our unhoused neighbors to park while working with the extensive network of providers to get the help they need to move into more stable housing. Pierce County recently began work on an initiative to end street homelessness by November 1. With the political will from local officials, and financial support from the pandemic relief packages, we are grateful to play a small part in a much larger project in our community. Homelessness was already in a crisis in Tacoma before the pandemic, and as the eviction moratoriums are scheduled to expire June 30th, we foresee a greater need to support our unhoused neighbors than ever before.
Thank you for your continued support of this pilot program.