Road to Housing
Hundreds of people in Seattle live out of their vehicles, which are often parked on City streets. Aware of this growing population of homeless individuals who were not being aided by human service organizations, Councilmember Mike O'Brien spearheaded the creation of the "Road to Housing" program.
The "Road to Housing" is an effective public-private partnership between the City and faith-based organizations. In this partnership, the faith-based organizations provide safe places to park (usually in a church parking lot) for people living in their vehicles and access to a bathroom. The City provides case management services for people the church parking lots and outreach to vehicular residents in Seattle neighborhoods and other faith-based organizations.
The Road to Housing program exists to:
- Assist homeless vehicle campers to move off of the streets and into housing; and,
- Reduce the burden on communities who have been hosting vehicle campers for years.
According to the 2014 One Night Count, of the 2,303 unsheltered people counted in Seattle, a plurality were found sleeping in a car or truck (730 people; for comparison of the next two largest shares of unsheltered people, 357 people were counted in "structures," 244 were counted "walking around").
Many "first time homeless" have been living in their vehicle. This suggests both that their economic situation has not improved as the economy has recovered, and we also know that many of these folks have no sense of what services might be available to them or how they can access them.
Council expanded the "Road to Housing" program in the 2014 City budget, but more needs to be done to serve this growing population.
In addition, Seattle Police Department and Seattle Parking Enforcement continue to field complaints from neighbors and businesses ranging in nature from 72-hour parking enforcement, public nuisance (e.g., littering, human waste, generators running in the planting strip, etc.) or potential criminal activity (e.g., drug dealing, prostitution, fencing goods).
Expanding the program further will require both more available of parking spaces and a faster placement into improved housing options for participants in the program.
- By engaging with faith-based organizations, this program is a neighborhood based approach that engages more of the community in ending homelessness.
- City resources are leveraged with additional volunteers and contributions from faith-based organizations and members of the neighboring community to help support the participants.
- In Seattle and King County, people in their vehicles account for about one-third of the unsheltered population, and in some suburban cities we see an even larger proportion. Churches in other parts of the region have already started hosting vehicular residents on their own, so there are opportunities to work with suburban cities and the County on a region-wide approach.
- If you know someone who might be interested in creating a "Road to Housing" program in their city, please contact Councilmember Mike O'Brien at firstname.lastname@example.org or (206) 684-8800.
Vehicle camping exists beyond Seattle's city limits, so Councilmember O'Brien is working with regional leaders to implement the program in other area cities. For those interested in creating a Road To Housing program, please contact Councilmember O'Brien at email@example.com or 206.684.8800.