Elizabeth Daigneau is GOVERNING's managing editor.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
A Santa Barbara program called Safe Parking allows people to live in their cars or RVs in a dozen parking lots that belong to the city, the county, churches, nonprofits and a few businesses.
In the scenic oceanfront city of Santa Barbara, Calif., where a fixer-upper can cost more than a $1 million, it is not unusual for a lower- or middle-class person to spend three-quarters of their income on rent. As California's foreclosure crisis continues to unfold, more and more of these residents are finding themselves kicked out of their apartments and sleeping in their cars. A city-sanctioned program called Safe Parking allows people to live in their cars or RVs in a dozen parking lots that belong to the city, the county, churches, nonprofits and a few businesses. Currently, more than 50 people participate in the program, and a case manager works with them to provide job and housing assistance. To participate, residents must have auto insurance and driver's licenses and must agree to rules that include no alcohol or drugs, no overnight visitors and no cooking outside the vehicle. The lots open at 7 p.m. and close at 7 a.m. Administered by the nonprofit New Beginnings Counseling Center, Safe Parking costs about $105,000 a year and is funded primarily by the city and county. The five-year-old program is believed to be the first of its kind in the United States, and may be adopted in the nearby Venice Beach area, which is experiencing its own influx of street campers. To learn more about the program, call New Beginnings at 805-963-7777.