SAN DIEGO – The San Diego City Council voted unanimously on Monday to approve Mayor Todd Gloria’s proposal to extend operations at one of the City’s Safe Parking lots to 24 hours, allowing for expanded opportunity for residents experiencing homelessness not only to safely live out of their vehicles, but also to access services and get on a path to housing.
“During the past year-and-a-half, we have taken many steps to make it easier for unsheltered San Diegans to come off the streets and get connected to the kind of help that will end their homelessness,” said Mayor Todd Gloria. “Today, thanks to the City Council’s approval of my proposal, we broke down yet another barrier by making one of our Safe Parking sites available all day and all night.”
The City’s Safe Parking Program, operated under contract by Jewish Family Service of San Diego, includes three facilities – two in Kearny Mesa and one in Mission Valley. Currently, the lots are open from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. every day. The Mayor asked the City Council to approve roughly $1.43 million to continue the program through June 30, 2023, with $440,000 going toward extending hours at the Mission Valley site. The effective date of the expanded hours has yet to be determined.
At the hearing, Councilmembers also requested staff assess the potential for additional sites across the city, as well as creating family-friendly zones within the Safe Parking sites to make them more suitable for families.
The Safe Parking Program has served nearly 2,200 households since it started in 2018, and roughly 650 households to date have been connected directly from the program to permanent housing, shelter or family reunification.
The program provides a welcoming environment, meaningful resources and tools, and dignified support to help families stabilize and transition back into more permanent housing. With holistic services focused on basic needs assistance, employment, family wellness, school success, financial education and housing, the program’s goal is to create a pathway out of homelessness while being a support to people where they are now.
In 2019, researchers from UC San Diego’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning began a three-year evaluation of the Safe Parking Program to review the program’s effectiveness and recommendations for improvement. Key findings to date include:
- For 70 percent of program participants, this is their first time experiencing homelessness.
- More than 25 percent of program participants are older than 60, with nearly half older than 50.
- 20 percent of participants are members of families with children, and a little more than 14 percent of clients are younger than 20.
The report’s overall recommendations included providing “24-hour access for at least one lot,” in part based on listening-session feedback from Safe Parking Program clients who overwhelmingly indicated support for increased access to the lots during the day. Additional benefits include reduced fuel and vehicle maintenance costs for participants and greater opportunities for interaction with case managers.
Mayor Gloria created the Homelessness Strategies and Solutions Department (HSSD) in 2021 to increase efficiency and accountability when it comes to homelessness-services programs. The new contract for Safe Parking will be administered by HSSD.