It may be hard to imagine a parking lot equipped with a portable toilet, a cold water handwashing station, and trash disposal and recycling can save lives. It does. And the Tahoma Unitarian Universalist Congregation is part of this effort.
Most of you are familiar with how TUUC got involved with Safe Parking. For those who are not, the short version of a long story is that while looking for how to discourage misbehavior on our property we learned that Safe Parking can not only potentially help with security but – even better – can provide a respite for people living in their cars as they work to transition to a more stable situation. Participation in the Tacoma/Pierce County Safe Parking program is an opportunity for TUUC to actively live our Principles to “affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person; and justice, equity and compassion in human relations.”
We have been supporting guests who live in their cars for almost a year, hosting more than 17 cars and helping support more than 20 guests find more stability. It has – and continues to be – quite a journey, sometimes a bumpy one, and always an important one.
The five member TUUC Social Justice Committee Subcommittee on Housing Insecurity (yep…quite the mouthful!) coordinates the program that is now being funded by Pierce County. Ten congregants work in teams of two, visiting most days, to keep the site clean and functioning. We primarily provide a safe space and sanitation, but during the recent exceptionally cold weather, we also had mylar blankets, bottled water, and Cup of Noodles with hot water available. Other congregants have helped with yard cleanup and maintenance. All of this has helped our corner of the neighborhood to look more kempt and mischief free. And our neighbors have let us know how much they appreciate our efforts.
Pierce County is funding this program because the four active sites have demonstrated how critical it is to catch those who are unhoused early in their experience. Living in a vehicle may be the first step to chronic homelessness unless we provide a situation that supports people as they seek more stable housing. Safe Parking works.
We need more volunteers. Join us and feel the love of working in community to help others, keep our sacred space looking cared for and walk the talk of the principles by which we live. Help us create and maintain a community of love and justice both within and outside our walls. When you are ready to help, please email the Subcommittee: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Subcommittee Members: Cat Garretson-Bilnoski (site host), Mary Berry (recorder), Cindy Hackett (volunteer coordinator), Dave Hackett, and Stacey Soltoff