Safe Parking Expands: Prioritizing Unhoused Families
June 28, 2023
“Safe parking is a tool that can keep people from losing their home of last resort and winding up on our streets. This program expansion will put to good use the trailers provided to us by the state and give folks more space to live while they work to find permanent housing.”
– Mayor Todd Gloria at the opening of the new Rose Canyon Safe Parking Lot
We see it every day. At our parks, our beaches, our neighborhoods. An increasing number of people are living on the streets or in their vehicles without stable shelter. San Diego’s Regional Task Force on Homelessness reported in their annual count earlier this month that homelessness in the County increased by as much as 22% — affecting many families for the very first time. Expanded safe parking services are a needed and effective way to meet the unique needs of families newly experiencing homelessness.
This spring, Jewish Family Service partnered with the City of San Diego to open our fourth Safe Parking Lot in the City and the fifth in the County. Our new Rose Canyon Safe Parking Lot is the first of its kind — utilizing 12 camper trailers prioritized for families with young children.
Bringing Comfort and Hope to Unhoused Families
Imagine having to care for your family within the confines of your vehicle. Rose Canyon’s 12 ready-to-live-in camper trailers include beds, showers, and bathrooms, giving families much-needed space to stretch out — essential for cooking, bathing, and sleeping. The trailers also offer a return to something more familiar — hope for better days ahead. For families like the Johns, who have been sheltering in a JFS Safe Parking Lot since Michael was laid off six months ago, transitioning to a trailer feels one step closer to home.
“It’s very hard to raise a 15-year-old in a vehicle. We’re grateful for the opportunity to be in a trailer and use it as our home base until we can transition back into housing. The trailer gives us the basics of normal living again — a private bathroom, a refrigerator to store food, a stove for cooking, and a bed to lay down on instead of cramped in our truck — it gets us closer to a sense of normal.”
– Michael Johns
Many working families are facing the reality of homelessness. Up to 70% of Safe Parking participants have full-time jobs or may be juggling several part-time jobs, but still do not make the income required to cover rent in a city where there is not enough low-income housing. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines “affordable” as housing that costs no more than 30% of a household’s monthly income. With the median income for a family of four in San Diego at $63,400, average rents far exceed the “affordable” rate of $1,700 per month at $1,915 for a one-bedroom apartment and $2,468 for a two-bedroom apartment.
Every Safe Parking Participant
Deserves Compassion & Dignity
Experiencing homelessness for the first time
Over the age of 50
Over the age of 60
Families with children
Younger than age 20
Homelessness can have a tremendous impact on children — their education, health, sense of safety, and overall development. Beyond connecting families to critical assistance, the new Rose Canyon Safe Parking Lot creates a safe space, a sense of community that encourages socialization, and a place where kids can be kids.
“When we were out on the streets, we saw a lot of families going to the park to do the same thing we were doing — using the restrooms to bathe, clean up, and get ready for school and work. Now we have our own bathroom, shower, and bed. My son can interact with other children in a safe space which helps with his socialization, and we’ve made friends with the other families too — we all help each other out whenever we can — it’s a real community. And I love that the case workers here are helping us get back on our feet and back into stable housing — that’s so important to us.”
For families like Melissa’s, the Rose Canyon Lot opened just in time. Sheltering in a vehicle and heavily pregnant at the time, Melissa and her husband Roberto were overwhelmed by stress and worry. Helping their 3-year-old toddler, who has autism and sensory issues, get ready for school every day in a park bathroom was an extra challenge. After repeatedly having housing applications rejected based on their two incomes, they found safety, security, and community at the Rose Canyon Safe Parking Lot. Shortly after they moved into their trailer, Melissa gave birth to a daughter. Both mom and baby are doing well.
Helping Unhoused Families: One Safe Parking Lot at a Time
Together, the network of Safe Parking sites in the City of San Diego has the capacity to serve 233 households — helping people experiencing homelessness stay safe and connected to services while we support them with their goal to return to stable housing.
Since 2018, the JFS Safe Parking Program has been providing a welcoming environment, meaningful resources and tools, and dignified support to help families stabilize and transition back into permanent housing. With holistic services focused on basic needs assistance, employment, family wellness, school success, financial education, credit repair, and housing, our goal is to create a pathway out of homelessness while being a support to people where they are now.
We are proud to partner with the City of San Diego to build a stronger and healthier community where everyone can thrive. Many thanks to Mayor Todd Gloria (center), Supervisor Nora Vargas (right), and Councilmember Jennifer Campbell (left) for their ongoing support of the Rose Canyon Safe Parking Lot.
To learn more about safe parking, visit our Safe Parking Program page.