Allied Against HateParking Lots Support Rising Number of People Whose Cars Serve as Homes

All over the U.S., dozens of parking lots have popped up to provide a safe landing place for a growing cohort of working Americans who earn too little to afford rent but too much to qualify for government assistance. In response, many have turned their cars into a unique form of affordable housing. The parking lot idea sprang up almost 20 years ago, with the first one opening in 2004. Although the concept didn’t take off nationally for awhile, a growing number of churches and businesses have jumped in to explore the possibilities.

“Our simple idea was, ‘Hey, if they’re in our parking lot, they won’t get parking tickets. And they won’t get booted and towed,’” said Karina O’Malley, who helped create a program in Washington State, which now boasts 12 such lots. “Tens of thousands of people are living in their vehicles,” according to Graham J. Pruss, who runs the National Vehicle Residency Collective. The “mobile homeless” now make up the majority of the homeless population in many cities, including 53 percent in King County, Washington; 45 percent in San Mateo, California, and almost 60 percent in Los Angeles, California. Plenty of these “parkers” have jobs. For example, 135 out of the 217 people who slept in a Colorado Safe Parking Initiative lot earlier this year, have a monthly paycheck averaging $1,581.
Consider: How has your organization and/or community responded to reaching this rising homeless population with your programs and services?

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