LB City launching parking program for homeless living in cars

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It is no secret the homelessness situation throughout the state is causing some City officials to scramble to find creative ways to help house transients.

Some ideas that have been tossed around include motel conversions and shared housing.

In the latest attempt to tackle homelessness, the City of Long Beach recently announced it is launching a safe-parking pilot program in September to give homeless families who live out of their cars a designated place to spend the night.

Second District Councilmember Jeannine Pearce proposed the idea to the Long Beach City Council in 2016. A similar idea was brought forth six years ago, but it did not pass, Pearce told the Signal Tribune during a phone interview Tuesday.

“We were able to secure funds from [Measure H] to go towards this pilot program,” she said.

The pilot program will last 12 months and will be funded by $220,942, according to the City’s Safe Parking Feasibility study. Pearce said that the council will look into hiring private security to oversee the parking spaces instead of using Long Beach Police assets.

Shannon Parker, Long Beach Homeless Services officer, said the program will also help families connect with case workers and other services to find permanent housing options.

City officials are currently negotiating with local faith-based groups and other nonprofits to establish what parking lots to use. Parker said the pilot program will take on 20 spots for cars.

The 2018 homeless count for the entire Los Angeles County reported that there were 7,368 individuals living in their cars or vans. In Long Beach, the city’s homeless count identified 1,863 individuals experiencing homelessness and 85 of them living in their vehicles.

Since March 2017, the city council has debated on how to implement the program.

The original idea evolved in June 2017 into the Long Beach Safe Parking Program Feasibility Study. The City intended to help people move away from living in their cars and connect them with other health services.

According to official documents, the city council studied how Seattle, San Diego, Monterey Bay and Ventura implemented similar parking programs for the homeless.

The programs that were analyzed all had steps in place to help transition people from living out of their cars into permanent homes.

Parker said the programs that were looked at shared “universal challenges.” Some of the other programs required the vehicles to be licensed and registered.

“You can see how that could be a challenge for folks that are experiencing homelessness,” Parker said.

The different programs also varied in the amount of time homeless families were allowed to stay in the safe parking programs. The limited staying time and the current housing crisis across the county are challenges the pilot program may face, Parker said.

“Homelessness is a crisis that is not only in Long Beach and California, but the nation is struggling with,” Pearce said. “Sometimes, it can only be solved with one individual at a time. Being able to connect people with resources where they feel they are valued is really important.”