Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church has, like many local churches, ministered to the needy in a multitude of ways. In the past, it’s sheltered homeless women and families. Starting in two weeks, it’s offering refuge in a new way – several “safe parking” spaces for people living in cars. The plan came to light in an update sent to city councilmembers by Human Services Department director Jason Johnson, as first reported earlier today by The Seattle Times. We have since obtained Johnson’s email, in which he wrote that OLG had approached the city “in late 2019” about getting involved with the Safe Parking program, pioneered by a Ballard church.
The email contained few specifics about OLG’s plan, so we contacted OLG to find out more; turns out they were having a training session tonight for volunteers. OLG’s pastoral assistant for outreach, Jennifer Ibach, provided this FAQ document that’s been circulated in the church community.
-The church was asked to provide space for up to seven cars to park; a portable toilet and “hospitality hut” will be provided by the Urban League, the program’s official service provider. OLG is planning to provide three spots to start with.
-The people offered spaces will be “motivated adult individuals and/or couples with no place to stay but in their vehicles.” The Urban League will screen people: “Participants referred to Urban League will undergo an intake and screening process, including a credit check and a national criminal background check.” They will not allow sex offenders or “persons convicted of violent offenses, with a history of violence or with current violent offenses (including restraining orders and domestic violence).”
-There will be a “zero tolerance” policy for alcohol and other drugs.
-Participants will get case management.
-There’s no time limit but it’s expected to be short-term: “This is a road to housing, not a road to parking!”
The FAQ document above has many other details. Ibach told us they expect the program to start February 24th.
Side note: HSD director Johnson’s email also mentioned an additional, unidentified West Seattle church “has also reached out” about involvement in the Safe Parking program and is in exploratory talks.