16,000 people in L.A. now live in cars, vans and RVs. But safe parking remains elusive

Safe parking was supposed to be a simple, inexpensive stopgap for people living in their cars. But the program has struggled to expand in Los Angeles. 

Annual homelessness figures for Los Angeles County released last week show a 5% jump in people sleeping in vehicles.

They “are typically families or people who work,” most of them new to the street, Marston said.

But federally funded programs give priority to the chronically unhoused, making safe parking one of the few forms of shelter accessible to the growing number of Angelenos who have not been homeless before.

“I wasn’t surprised to see that more people are moving into their vehicles, because rents are growing faster than income,” said Va Lecia Adams Kellum, president of St. Joseph’s Center, a homeless services organization. “There’s families who are still working but had to make the sad choice of moving into their cars.”

Groups operating safe parking sites say that to remain in the program, they will have to do more with less.

“If you looked at the numbers and did the math, [the pilot program] was almost double” the per-vehicle payout allowed under the new plan, said Veronica Lewis, division director of HOPICS, a homeless services agency that opened the first safe parking site in L.A. in the spring of 2017.

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