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Pierce council allows safe car parks for the homeless

PIERCE COUNTY, WA – Religious organizations, civic groups and commercial landlords in unincorporated Pierce County may soon be allowed to reserve their unused parking spaces and give them to residents who live off their vehicles as a safe and secure place to stay.

Pierce County Council passed a temporary secure parking policy on Tuesday. If it receives approval from Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier, starting June 1, community groups, landlords and anyone with parking spots to resell will have six months to set up and operate sites safe parking spaces. Sites can accommodate up to seven vehicles each in all zoning designations. Sites with eight or more vehicles are limited to urban areas and require additional agreement with the county. Recreational vehicles would also be restricted to large urban sites.

“We know that there are countless people who are currently living in their cars without a safe place to stay. Allowing individuals and families to park in regulated and safe parking sites provides them with a safe and temporary place to find stability as they work to improve their financial situation and seek permanent housing,” Council Chairman Derek Young said in a statement. “We have waited too long to respond to the growing homelessness crisis. This is just one way to begin to meet the needs of our most vulnerable residents.”

The proposal is part of the broader comprehensive plan to end homelessness, which the council approved in March. The plan is comprised of several short- and long-term solutions to the county’s recent rapid growth in homelessness. There are approximately 2,300 Pierce County residents who are unhoused, the council said.

Before their parking spaces can be occupied, host organizations must meet with community members to discuss neighborhood concerns. They should also check state and local sex offender registrations to see if anyone using their site is a registered sex offender.

The secure parking spaces can accommodate 2 passenger vehicles, without stipulations. The requirements for large sites are as follows:

  • Sites for three to seven vehicles must provide access to on-site washrooms or portable washrooms, drinking water and garbage cans.
  • Sites for eight or more vehicles must meet the above public health needs, as well as the creation of a safety and security plan, a code of conduct addressing behaviors such as drug and alcohol use, cleanliness and hours of silence. Site operators must also enter into an agreement with Pierce County to ensure the above requirements are met.

A supporter like council member Jani Hitchens says the goal of the parking proposal is to create smaller places where people can stay, even in communities that don’t have the space or need for one. full homeless shelter.

“It will provide a network of possible spaces across our entire geographic area, from both sides of the water to the mountain,” Hitchens said during a public meeting on the ordinance last month.

Although the secure parking program only lasts six months, it has a chance of becoming permanent. Once it is in full swing, the county’s Planning and Public Works Department will conduct an analysis of its effectiveness and may recommend permanent regulations for safe parking facilities. This decision should be made by September 1, 2022.

Deena S. Hawkins

The author Deena S. Hawkins