EVERETT, Wash. — Snohomish County's most recent homeless count found 280 unsheltered people living in their vehicles. In response to the growing problem, the city of Everett is about to get its first-ever 'safe parking lot.'
The lot will be offered to five homeless families living in their vehicles.
Jim Dean with Interfaith Family Shelter helped secure a $25,000 grant to make the 'Cars to Housing Pilot Program' happen.
"We are at a crisis point in Snohomish County. We are at a crisis point in all of western Washington," Dean said.
Dean wants to get people out of homelessness and into housing. He pays close attention to the annual unsheltered count in Snohomish County which noted a 58% increase this year compared to the year before.
"We do know that in the county about half the people that are homeless live in a vehicle," he said.
Dean added that shelter space does not match the need. That's the problem. Now it appears an Everett parking lot could be part of the solution.
Pastor Luke Hyder at Cascade View Presbyterian Church is willing to open up space near the back of the church's parking lot. Five families would be able to park in what would be an enclosed area with fencing. There would be a porta potty and a dumpster for garbage.
Before inviting anyone in, Hyder started reaching out to his neighbors and congregation.
"If you were talking about having something like this in your backyard it would be surprising if you didn't have concerns," he said. "The questions we got from our neighbors and the community were really helpful in developing the parameters of the program."
Plans for the parking lot are moving forward. The 'Cars to Housing Pilot Program' includes a screening process, background check, and a case manager who will be monitoring the site and helping families find housing.
"Everett is saying we need to take a look at all aspects of what homelessness is, and take advantage of all opportunities to help people," Dean said.
The program is expected to launch this summer and it will serve families with children only. There's a list of rules including no RVs allowed. It is intended to be a 90-day transitional program, where families receive resources to help them move from the parking lot to housing.