In its latest attempt to tackle homelessness, the City of Long Beach is launching a new pilot program that will provide a secure place for homeless citizens living out of their vehicles.
The Safe Parking program, which began Thursday, Feb. 27, is an initiative that will work with homeless individuals by providing a nightly parking lot in a safe location.
Through the new program, homeless residents will be able to park overnight at a pre-arranged parking lot between the hours of 6pm-7am.
Pastor Steven Richardson, of the Good News Church in Long Beach, provides the church’s parking lot as the location for the project.
According to a city memo, Richardson approached the City in August 2019 to suggest the use of the Good News Church parking lot, which can support a maximum of 15 vehicles.
“Nobody actually applied to the Request for Proposal process,” Interim Deputy City Manager, Teresa Chandler, said. “Then, Pastor Richardson actually came to us after the fact and said he wanted to host the program at his lot. So, we were very excited to start working with him.”
In order to support the program, the City acquired funding through a state program known as the Homeless Emergency Aid Program (HEAP). Through HEAP, Long Beach managed to secure a total of $12.4 million in funds– and allocated a total of $220,000 over 12 months to the safe parking program.
The funds will be used to pay for all-night security guards, portable restrooms and hand-washing stations.
Additional funding was set aside to ensure that the church parking lot had the proper lighting, fencing and appropriate Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. These additional projects were funded by a $40,000 grant from the Mayor’s Fund to End Homelessness.
One of the benefits of the church is its location. The Good News Church is less than a mile away from the Long Beach Multi-Service Center.
One of the stipulations of the programs requires members to participate in case management and meet certain goals.
According to Chandler, the MSC works as the main location where homeless residents can easily access the City’s homeless programs.
“There are 13 agencies that are subcontracted with the city and are co-located at the multi-service center,” Chandler said. “So, it’s literally a one-stop-shop [where] people can walk in and have their basic needs met– where they can take showers, [access] mail services and connect to food opportunities and things like that.”
The multi-service center also allows participants to stay in contact with their case managers, where they can apply for housing programs– such as rapid rehousing, transitional housing and emergency shelter.
Additionally, while the Good News Church continues to renovate its parking lot, the MSC will serve as the temporary location for the safe parking program when it opens on Feb. 27. The program is expected to move over to the church upon completion of the required construction.
Being accepted into the safe parking program requires residents to go through a referral process at the MSC. During this referral process, applicants are provided an overview of the program and vehicles are inspected for insurance and registration.
Part of the program includes outreach to residents living in vehicles. According to a city memo, the City identified a total of 1,048 individuals who lived in their car at some point last year.
In an attempt to reach out to these individuals, the city employs teams of outreach workers who work independently and with local police and fire stations to make contact with people in need.
According to Chandler, building a relationship with these people can be challenging and take time.
“On average, it takes about 17 contacts with our outreach teams to connect with people [and] for them to finally say yes to services,” Chandler said. “The teams are building relationships with people who might not want to come in and might not be ready to receive services. They say no several times, but the outreach team continues to go back and be persistent to build that relationship, and then eventually, people hopefully come in for services and housing.”