US people living in cars find solace in safe parking

By BELINDA ROBINSON in New York | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-11-23 09:27
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Progress in resolution

A pedestrian takes cover under a blanket on Nov 9 in Anchorage, Alaska, as plows clear the roadway. Four homeless people died earlier this month, part of a record 49 deaths of people living outdoors in Alaska's largest city this year, according to a count kept by the Anchorage Daily News. MARC LESTER/AP

"Denver's very much a caring city and working hard to make progress in homelessness resolution," Woodbury said.

"We're doing all that we can to ensure that episodes of homelessness are experienced rarely, and where they are they're brief, one-time occurrences. We invest in shelter alternatives, and safe parking is an example."

Woodbury said Denver had been invested from President Joe Biden's American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Of 30 percent of people who stay at a Safe Lot in the City and County of Denver, one-third go on to live in permanent housing, he said.

The essential, free parking spaces, hosted by churches, if zoning laws allow, or in existing parking lots, also provide people with a much-needed warm shower, dinner from donated food and, importantly, someone to talk to. In extremely bad weather some offer a night in a motel.

Jesus Garcia, program coordinator for CAREavan, a safe parking program in Union City, Alameda County, California, has seen the look of relief in the eyes of individuals and families who arrive after living in a cramped car.

" (For these families) just having basic necessities, as far as restrooms and having a safe place to sleep at night (is vital).

"So, they can do what they need to do with the time without worrying about it at night by really having a safe place to sleep where they can rest, relax. This way they can attend their meetings and do what they need to be able to do to get out of a situation they are in.

"We realized ... some families (who) were attending some of our other programs... were sleeping in a vehicle and ... in an unsafe parking lot. And we just wanted a place for them to start sleeping. So that's why we started the program back in 2016."

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