By MICHAEL WHITNEY
Published May 17, 2023
Monroe area for families to sleep in cars explained
Michael Whitney photo
The layout of the parking spaces.
MONROE — A program to let families with children sleep in their car overnight in St. Vincent de Paul's parking lot at its building on W. Main Street could begin by this summer, but you might never realize it.
The parking spaces are to the left of the building. They'd be occupied after gates are closed.
St. Vincent de Paul would start with filling one space with one family and seeing how it goes, St. Vincent representatives said at a meeting Thursday that had about 40 residents in the room. It may top out at four households.
The city planning department is evaluating the proposal. It could approve by the end of the month.
St. Vincent's representatives took dozens of questions from residents at the meeting.
Here's the skinny: The families are referrals from homelessness programs. They are pre-arranged and invited, not first-come, first-served as drive-ups, and they would be pre-screened, St. Vincent's center manager Dawnelle Carroll said. Once there, they'd follow a code of conduct. There's a portable toilet.
How long each family stays depends on their personal circumstances on being able to exit, St. Vincent's regional executive director Inga Paige said.
The parking times are 9 p.m. until 7 a.m. when they must vacate. Nine p.m. is check-in time, Paige said.
No RVs, fifth wheels or tents would be allowed.
The gates would be locked. There wouldn't be in-and-out privileges, and motion detection sensors would enforce this, Carroll said. No visitors would be allowed.
The families using the parking spots will receive additional services with the goal of moving up into housing. They would need to work with a housing navigator as one of the rules. Until then, there is no time limit for staying. "I'm not going to kick a family out that's following the rules," Paige told meeting attendees.
Men with children will be allowed, Carroll told the Tribune, unlike the initial plan for just women with children. The children attend schools in east county schools under the McKinney-Vento Act, an act which lets students stay at their home school even if their disrupted living situation puts them out of the area.
St. Vincent leaders haven't identified its way to help homeless working parents whose jobs have them on the clock past 9 p.m.
Michael Whitney photo
St. Vincent de Paul Monroe’s center manager Dawnelle Carroll and regional executive director Inga Paige (right) explain the nonprofit’s safe parking lot
for homeless families at a meeting Thursday, May 11.
The pilot program is for one year, Paige said. A $27,500 city grant using American Rescue Plan Act funding is paying its startup costs.
"If successful, we'd continue with private funding," Paige said. "It's not a program we expect the city to continue funding."
It was unclear how many family members could stay in one car.
Was the topic recently blown out of proportion on social media? "Yes," Paige said. "It's not really an encampment, it's a safe parking lot."
Safe parking lots are new to Monroe but have been used in the region. The Interfaith Family Shelter arranged for homeless individuals to stay overnight in a church parking lot in Everett, for example. Another is in Kirkland.
A safe parking lot gives an added layer of safety for houseless families, said homelessness advocate Roger Evans, who is seeking to establish a Monroe center to provide temporary housing for families.
Discussions to establish the St. Vincent de Paul safe parking lot in Monroe started before 2020, officials said.
The safe parking lot requires a city permit.
Comments on the permit application to be considered as part of the official record should be sent to senior planner Anita Marrero by May 22 at 5 p.m. by emailing email@example.com or written submittal to City Hall, 806 W. Main Street, Monroe, WA 98272. No decision will be issued before May 22.
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