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Bellevue says it's been a challenge to find a Safe Parking Program operator

The city wants safe parking and services for people living in their vehicles, but Bellevue still needs an experienced organization to run a pilot program.

BELLEVUE, Wash. — The last in-person count found more than 2,700 people in King County are living in their cars due to homelessness.

The City of Bellevue plans to launch a Safe Parking Program for cars and RVs, and put out a request for experienced organizations to operate it. The application process just closed, and the city only received two proposals, according to Nico Quijano, Bellevue's Homelessness Outreach Manager.

The city announced the Safe Parking Lot Pilot Program at the beginning of the year. The city plans to use the space near 116th Northeast Avenue and 4th Street along with $450,000 dollars worth of funding in the 2023-24 budget. But there's another hurdle.

"For us, the biggest challenge is finding that provider,” said Quijano.

The city wants a provider ready with a staff to offer on-site services and support.

"A lot of the folks who even are telling us they want to do it are just sort of at a point where they don't have the capacity to add another program at the moment,” Quijano said.

"The pandemic really hurts staffing. Everybody's short-staffed,” said the Rev. Bill Kirlin-Hackett who is with Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness. "For me, it's always felt urgent, and that's how I tried to communicate it to others. This is urgent. These are people's lives."

Last year, King County identified more than 13,000 people experiencing homelessness.

"Our last formal count has something like 83 vehicles in the city of Bellevue that are occupied by people or households that do not have anywhere else to stay,” said Quijano.

That's part of the reason Bellevue has been exploring the idea of a pathway to stability.

"The idea is to give the participants in the program, some timeframe, something like six months, where they're expected to work towards stable housing. We're going to make sure that we provide them the support that they need to get into stable housing and get into a better position,” said Quijano.

That's the program the city wants, but Bellevue still needs an experienced organization to run it.

The city will evaluate the two proposals over the next couple of weeks and make a decision in June.

Congregations for the Homeless is currently using the space, but that is organization about to move into its new facility in Eastgate.

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