City-Run/State Taxpayer-Funded Program To Offer Parking Lot Spaces For Homeless Persons Living/Sleeping In Vehicles ("Safe Parking") Will Begin By End Of September With Pilot/Test Of 20 Spaces Citywide; City Council Voted Last Year To Start It; LB Health Dept. Will Run It, Won't Say (Yet) Where The Parking Lot Spaces Will Be (Not Yet Decided) But Says It's Working With "Faith-Based Groups"
|(July 1, 2019) -- By the end of September 2019, the City of Long Beach aims to have up and running a one-year pilot (test) of a program (state-taxpayer funded in its first year) that will make parking lot spaces (twenty citywide to start) available to homeless persons who currently live/sleep in their vehicles. .
The City Council approved and directed a one-year test of a "safe parking" program (similar to such programs in other cities) in a September 18, 2018 voted action (6-0, LBREPORT.com coverage here). The 20 "safe parking" spaces will be spread between one to five parking lots (i.e.: one lot may have 20 spaces or two lots with 10 or four with 5 or the like but not exceeding 20 citywide) and the specific allocation hasn't yet been decided yet, LB's Homeless Services Coordinator, Shannon Parker told LBREPORT.com. The program's goal is to do more than just offer a parking space(s) by also connecting people living in their vehicles to available services and permanent housing, Ms. Parker said.
Why 20 parking spaces to start? It's the number that can be funded using a roughly $220,000 Sac'to dispensed HEAP ("Homeless Emergency Aid Program" grant.
Where will the "safe parking" lot(s) be located? That's not yet decided, Ms. Parker said. She said the City is currently working with faith-based partners and others to identify the lot(s) and confirm the desire and ability of partnering parties to host the program.
Who are the faith based partners? They won't be identified until there's a clear understanding between them and the City of the partnering parties' desire and ability to participate in the program.
In what parts of town will the "safe parking" lots be located? That's not known yet because it's not yet certain who the City's partnering parties will be and how the twenty parking lot spaces will be allocated...but no particular parts of the city have been ruled-in or ruled-out for what is envisioned to be a citywide program, Ms. Parker said.
Will the safe parking lots implement "best practices" (used in other cities and listed in a 2017 feasibility report presented to the Council by LB's Health Dept.)? That depends on whether best practices identified in 2017 remain best practices today, whether additional best practices are used now used and whether the City can implement such practices within the program's budget, Ms. Parker said. Best "safe parking" practices used in other cities may or may not be appropriate to conditions in Long Beach, Ms. Parker indicated, although the city expects to work with its partner(s) to discuss applying universal practices used in other programs.
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The "safe parking" program stems from City Council voted actions. On September 18, 2018, Council voted 6-0 to approve an item agendized by Councilwoman Pearce, joined by.Councilmembers Gonzalez, Price and Uranga, that directed city staff to initiate a one year pilot program to provide an estimated 1,2,3,4 or 5 parking lots for homeless persons living in their vehicles in locations to be determined. Voting "yes" were Coouncilmembers Gonzalez, Pearce, Supernaw, Mungo, Uranga and Austin.
During Council discussion, city staff initially proposed 2 locations with an estimated 20 spaces citywide; Assistant City Manager then mentioned "1, 2, 3 or other sites" which led Councilwoman Pearce to suggest four locations. Mr. Modica said staff would like some "flexibility" on the number of locations given the dollars available, and Councilwoman Pearce volunteered that 5 is "probably the conversation we've had with other folks" and if it's more than four locations, it should return to the Council via a "TFF" memo "to be able to talk about where those might be." (As of July 1, 2019. there was no "TFF" memo visible on the City's page that publishes such memos.)
As to locations, Councilwoman (now state Senator) Gonzalez urged city staff to "look at this equitably around the city...L.A. is looking at each police division...to make it citywide; other areas are looking per districts; they're even looking at field officers of Councilmembers, I know that's a whole other discussion, but just in that same thought process I hope that we can make this as equitable as possible throughout the city, not even just for our residents, but I also think about the individuals that are experiencing homelessness that may want different opportunities in different places, close to other services around the city..."
Councilwoman Pearce volunteered that in her discussions, churches at 7th/Redondo and 3rd/Junipero (Grace UMC) both outside the downtown area) had indicated some level of willingness to participate in such a program. Assistant City Manager Modica quickly added that participating locations would be selected based on an open competitive RFP process.
Councilwoman Stacy Mungo indicated she wants to receive the non-agendized/non-discussion TFF on potential locations and asked about funding source. Assistant City Manager Modica replied that (as stated in the agendizing memo) the $220,000 for initial "pilot program" funding would come from state one-time dollars, roughly $12 million total..
Councilwoman Al Austin voiced support, saying that in "unconventional times we have to look at unconventional solutions to the problems of the day." Councilman Austin indicated that he hopes the state and County will make ongoing funding sources available so the City can grow the program if it's successful and continue it beyond a year (adding he "knows it is going to be successful, I'm optimistic") and indicated he's done "extensive outreach" with many 8th district churches and "we have a number of them who may be interested in participating."
In her Sept. 2018 agendizing memo, Councilwoman Pearce indicated that the "Transitional Parking Pilot Program" would include providing portable toilets for users ("clients") and access City "Continuum of Care" homeless services. An underlying 2017 "feasibility report" prepared by LB's Dept. of Health and Human Services discussed security in three paragraphs which begin: "The issue of security for these programs has generally not been as substantial as might be expected. Clients in lots tend to naturally take over the space and 'self-police,' ensuring the safety of their community from within." It adds: "When issues do arise, the programs report that law enforcement is very responsive."
On October 11, 2016, the Council voted 8-0 (Mungo absent) to request the feasibility study of what it called "safe parking" homeless programs such as those in Santa Barbara and Monterey Bay. On June 1, 2017, LB's Director of Health & Human Services, Kelly Colopy, provided the Mayor/Council with a ten page memo/feasibility report that cited "safe parking" programs used in other cities and stated in pertinent part:
...The main goals of a safe parking program are to move individuals who are residing in their cars, off of the street and into safe parking spaces, while simultaneously connecting them to basic essential services and making the connection to social service programs to transition them into permanent housing.
...BASIC ESSENTIAL SERVICES AND RELATED ISSUES
Hours of Operation: All but one program is open for a 12-hour period, 7 days per week. Clients can enter the lots between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., and must leave the following morning between 6:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. The one exception from this system is Seattle, which allows the lots to be open 24 hours a day. This expanded access allows for intensive case management, with each client being visited by a case manager at least once per week. This is a cost-intensive program that employs four case managers for outreach and direct client contact.
Program Screening: Lot screening procedures are similar in nature. Most lots require clients to provide a current driver's license, current automobile registration, and proof of liability insurance. Most programs also screen for sex offenders, and felons with recent violent crimes. One program will not accept clients convicted of "cooking meth."
Another component of client screening involves residency in the city or county where the program is housed. The Monterey and Ventura programs only accept clients whose most recent residence is in their city. Others are not as strict, but are looking for participants who are from the local area. Most programs accept self-reporting for this element. San Diego does not have a requirement of this nature, but reports that 70 percent of their clients come from San Diego County, and 20 percent come from other California cities. None of the programs reported they felt as if participants were drawn to their cities as a result of the availability of their program.
Case Management: All programs researched had extensive case management components. Most programs have a non-profit "lead agency" that supplies case management and helps connect clients to other local programs and services. Case management check-in ranges from weekly to monthly. Two of the programs have case managers that visit clients on site. It should be noted that neither of these programs is directly connected to a larger continuum of care system in their cities. All programs emphasized that participation in the case management component was a strict rule of the program, and clients who are not actively working toward the goal of permanent housing are removed from the program.
Sanitation: With few exceptions, sanitation costs for programs are borne by project funding. Delivering and maintaining portable toilets is a costly, but necessary, part of all safe parking programs. On some occasions, the host location is able to provide a restroom facility, but this only works if the restroom is accessible from the outside. There is a risk of portable toilets being used by people other than those in the program, but this was not mentioned as highly problematic for any of the programs. Placing the toilets away from streets and other easy access points keeps usage to lot patrons only.
Depending on the populations they encountered, some sites made sure to offer a handicapped restroom facility. This was not necessarily for ADA compliance, but rather to fulfill the needs of a certain client base. Some sites were not able to have portable sanitation onsite for various reasons. These sites simply referred clients to a nearby gas station or fast food facility. This approach, however, was only utilized by locations that had one or two spaces and, even then, it is difficult for the nearby businesses.
Security: The issue of security for these programs has generally not been as substantial as might be expected. Clients in lots tend to naturally take over the space and "self-police," ensuring the safety of their community from within. When issues do arise, the programs report that law enforcement is very responsive.
Different methodologies also serve to enhance security. In San Diego, for example, the case managers are on-site at each of the lots every-other-day from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. This provides oversight and management of residents. Before the case managers leave, one of the residents is a designated "night person" who can help with any issues. This role rotates, with many clients proudly taking part. Both of the San Diego sites have gated facilities, which also aid in security.
Santa Barbara, a program with 23 different lots, employs two site monitors who make several rounds per night. They tag non-authorized vehicles and ask them to follow-up with staff to register with the program. They also provide a night emergency number for clients to use when problems arise. They have not had a big problem with neighbor complaints in business areas. Residential areas are more of a challenge, but not a consistent problem. The program coordinator feels that the individuals living in cars are easier to work with because they are usually higher functioning, have some form of employment, and are less likely to be challenged by mental health issues...
Other Concerns: Each agency was asked whether safe parking lots create magnets for both vehicular and non-vehicular persons. Many of the programs are in more outlying areas and have not experienced any significant problems in this regard. San Diego, which identified the largest problem, has the largest lots in predominantly urban areas. Case managers work with non-participants to identify and refer them to alternative resources. If non-participants do not respond, law enforcement will cite the offender. Most "overflow" vehicles promptly leave the area once approached.
Lot location is an essential component of any program. Clients need access to areas that will protect and empower, not further destabilize. Multiple program coordinators cautioned to take the time to put together the best program available, both for the clients and the surrounding community. Faith-based agencies, business lots, and other non-profit organizations are potential partners for this type of program, although it should be noted that most programs studied are heavily reliant on faith-based partnerships.
Notably, RV and car inhabitants are viewed as different types of populations. A large percentage of car inhabitants are employed, but do not earn enough to secure housing at market rates. This population is eager to find housing and is only using a vehicle as a temporary solution. Those in RVs are often working in better paying jobs, but see living in RVs as being "housed" and not homeless. Programs that provide special lots for RVs tend to relegate them to industrial areas away from other resources. This is one type of lot that can tend to have a "magnet" effect because people who cannot get into the program still want to be a part of the community. RVs placed in car lots seem to be best tolerated if only smaller units (less than 34 feet) are allowed and they are limited to one or two per lot.
As indicated by Ms. Parker above, it's not yet clear to what extent some or all of these practices used in other cities, perhaps with other practices, may be used as part of the first year pilot "safe parking" program in Long Beach.
Developing. Further to follow on LBREPORT.com.
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