Providing a Safe Parking location with sanitary facilities – porta-potty and handwashing station – is a cost effective way to support those living in their cars toward housing and food security. After all, who really wants to live in their car? Who wants to decide what few possessions and memories they can pack into a small space? Living in a car is very tough on body and soul, especially when there is no safe place to park that provides even the most basic sanitation amenities: a place where you can sleep without fear, go to the bathroom, wash your hands and face, dispose of your trash, maybe even charge your mobile phone.
The Tahoma Unitarian Universalist Congregation Ad Hoc Committee on Building and Grounds Security has identified becoming a Safe Parking location as one way we can enhance security while living our UU values. The TUUC Board of Trustees supports moving forward to present the program to the congregation. You may have seen articles in the ENews, or attended last Sunday’s informational meeting. Another informational meeting is coming up after worship service on Sunday, February 7.
We are lucky. If we decide to become a Safe Parking location, we will be part of a pilot program – the Safe Parking Network – supported by a collaboration of local nonprofits and government agencies including the Metropolitan Development Council, Greater Tacoma Foundation, and Associated Ministries. This means that we will potentially have grant support for infrastructure – portable toilets, handwashing station, wifi upgrade – and the expertise and management support of Colin DeForrest, Safe Parking Network Pilot Program Manager. Our role will be to supply a small core of volunteers who will help shape our program and serve as a point of contact for our guests.
Safe Parking can be very basic. TUUC will determine how many cars we can host, the demographic of our guests, and the hours they may be in the parking lot. The Safe Parking Network will screen each adult through the State Police background check database. Each guest will complete a site application and sign a behavior covenant with us which includes a good neighbor policy. The program has full support of the Tacoma Police, who are very pleased to have safe places to refer people who are sleeping in their cars. A condition of Safe Parking is connecting with homelessness outreach professionals who will work with guests toward permanent housing.
We have visited Safe Parking programs at Lake Washington United Methodist Church in Kirkland and Edmonds Unitarian Universalist Congregation, and have spoken extensively with the people who coordinated those programs. These programs work – for the guests, the churches, and the neighborhood – to provide a safe transition to more secure housing and reduce misbehavior on the property.
We hope you will attend the next information session on Sunday, February 7 at noon; Zoom connection is on the church calendar. Bring your questions, your thoughts, and your ideas. If you can’t attend, we encourage you to email your questions to Cindy Hackett. If you do not have Cindy’s email address, please email Admin@TahomaUU.com.
Ad-Hoc Committee Convener Thomas Oliver, Cat Bilnoski, Holly Coryell, David Pettit, and Cindy Hackett