Vehicle residents: Seattle’s forgotten homeless community

Vehicle residents: Seattle’s forgotten homeless community


So I’ve been volunteering with the
point-in-time count here in Seattle and King County for about ten years now. There are over 12,000 people who are living unhoused or homeless or
unsheltered in Seattle. One quarter is living in vehicles. The main challenges
are really about parking. We gotta park somewhere, you know? Oh the squeeze is on –
they’re putting more two-to-five signs up no parking two to five, and that’s
geared towards RV people. When these signs were put in they effectively banished the community of people who were living on these streets. Because there’s no place for people to park they face rampant tickets, fear of impound, warnings
and community complaints in general. I move it whenever I have to, three days, whenever I get that orange sticker. It’s kind of a cat-and-mouse game. Many people
who are living in their vehicles don’t consider themselves homeless. They might not actually reach out for homeless assistance. So this is where we
have this problem. The people who are living on the streets of Seattle can be effectively blocked from the emergency services system. You don’t have to worry about something like that. Most people don’t but people on the street do. So we
are in one of the few safe parking lots that’s in the Puget Sound – a church in
Kirkland Washington. This is a safe parking program that offers restrooms,
kitchens and hygiene facilities for people who are sleeping in their cars. It
provides a space for stability and where people can connect with case managers
and social workers to help to further stabilize. This is an excellent example
of what needs to be provided. I was six months in the backseat of my car. – wow- This place is a blessing. This is for women and families. I do not know
what I would do without this place. It scares me to even think what I would do
because where does a person go? If we look at this through a lens of how do we
fix the broken person we’re never going to fix this issue. We can affect the
environment. We can’t force the person to make another choice but we can optimize
new choices that are more beneficial. My hope is that the city includes vehicle
residency in its emergency shelter care system. It’s that simple. I mean the reality is is that over half the people who are
living on the streets are not part of that system right now. What we’re
talking about is including all people in our services that are designed to end
homelessness.

About the Author: Michael Flood

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