The Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness met Monday evening, January 28, at Palisades Branch Library to discuss the rising rate of homeless individuals living in their vehicles along Pacific Coast Highway.
Over 15,000 individuals live in their vehicles in LA, comprising over 25 percent of the homeless population in LA County.
“The reason we are having these meetings is to explore different housing options for our homeless community members,” PPTFH President Doug McCormick said in a recent interview with the Palisadian-Post. “We know housing for the homeless is a complex and controversial topic, so our thought is to let the community hear different ideas and share their thoughts.”
The first guest speaker at the January 28 meeting was Stephanie Cohen, West/Metro LA District Director for District 3 Supervisor Sheila Kuehl’s office, who discussed possible solutions for the parking problems along PCH.
“Not everybody understands the extreme jurisdictional issues that we have there,” Cohen said at the meeting. “We understand that there’s a parking issue in the area that is not specifically related to homelessness though … there are definitely some people experiencing homelessness in their vehicles in the Sunset/Mesa area.”
Sharon Kilbride, chair of the PPTFH Law Enforcement Committee, shared some data on the recent surge in vehicle dwellers.
“In 2016, we had 289 vehicles that we approached and offered services to,” Kilbride shared at the meeting. “In 2017, we had 161, and, in 2018, we had 348. What does that tell you?
“A lot of people are moving out of apartments because there’s no affordable housing into their vehicles. So there is a huge uptick … most of the individuals we found in the Homeless Count were all vehicle dwellers, so that number really rose up this year. Safe Parking is something we all need to think seriously about. It’s going to be something we’re going to see more and more of in our communities.”
LAPD West Police Captain Victor Davalos added he was “completely supportive” of Safe Parking at the January 28 meeting.
The meeting closed with guest speaker Dr. Scott Sale, an internist specializing in allergy and immunology, who has worked with a number of organizations that assist homeless individuals in LA.
Sale is the co-founder and executive director of Safe Parking LA, a nonprofit initiative founded in 2016 that connects homeless people living in their vehicles with social services and provides them a safe place to park overnight.
“There are plenty of people here in the Palisades living in their vehicles,” Sale said, “and they don’t want to be living in their vehicles. Safe Parking is not intended for people who want to live in their cars the rest of their life—it’s intended for people who do not want to live in their car.”
Public Safe Parking lots provide clients with insurance, an unarmed security guard, a restroom and a washbasin. Private lots can be a lot more lavish, with picnic tables, benches, Wi-Fi, electrical plugs, dinner services and running water.
“The beauty of Safe Parking is that it reduces parking on the streets,” Sale continued. “It’s a win-win for neighbors and a win-win for people living in their cars.”
So far, there are 28 Safe Parking lots in Santa Barbara with over 130 spaces, and two lots in San Diego with more than 50 spaces total.
In LA, despite thousands of people living in their cars, there are only 130 designated Safe Parking spots across the entire city.
“It’s kind of pitiful,” Sale shared. “It’s brutal what it takes to get the spaces, to manage the spaces and furthermore, to get the people living in their cars to get them connected to services.
“Were it not for Supervisor Kuehl’s support, we would not have Safe Parking alive and well today as it is. Today, the conversation’s easier than it was yesterday.”
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