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Bellevue to launch free parking program for people living out of their cars

The program would provide a safe space for people to park their cars and receive services. The goal is to help them eventually find stable and affordable housing.

BELLEVUE, Wash. — The City of Bellevue has allocated $450,000 for its Safe Parking Pilot Program in the 2023-2024. 

The program is aimed at providing a safe place to park for people living out of their vehicles. Nico Quijano, the city's Homelessness Outreach Coordinator, says there's not a certain demographic that would benefit more than others from this program.

"I've worked with folks with really young children who are sleeping in their cars. I've worked with senior citizens on a fixed income who can't find a place they can afford," Quijano said.

Quijano says the program is designed to help people get back on track.

“We want to be able to offer people somewhere they can have privacy. Where they can park and focus on getting going in the right direction and receive some of the basic services they need to survive," he said. "That includes things like having a place to charge their phones, a mailing address, access to email."

The proposed location is in a somewhat secluded area. It's a parking lot at the Lincoln Center near 116th North East Avenue and 4th Street. Currently, Congregations for the Homeless is there, but the city has plans to move the homeless shelter to East Gate. The Safe Parking Pilot Program would then take over the vacant space.

Credit: City of Bellevue
The proposed site for the Safe Pilot Program is enclosed in the yellow box.

According to the latest count from the city, 83 people were living out of the cars in December 2021. Quijano believes that number is higher because it's hard to get an accurate of people who are experiencing homelessness, forced to live in their cars.

“I think referring to those folks as unseen is a fair way to characterize the homelessness we see in the city of Bellevue," Quijano said. "We want to make sure they have that extra step, that they are seen, taken care of and given the support they need.”

The city is still working through a lot of logistics, but they're hoping to select a program operator to launch the Safe Parking Pilot Program in Q2 of this year.

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