“I finally felt safe:” NVCS’ Safe Parking Program provides the homeless more than a place to park their vehicle; it is a place to find peace.
For Yolanda, the process of going to sleep every night came with tremendous fear that the majority of us will never experience. Checking to make sure the doors of her vehicle were locked was never enough, she also had to keep her windows shut and make sure that her belongings were out of sight and out of reach for potential thieves. When sleep would finally arrive, Yolanda would “sleep lightly,” expecting to be woken up by an officer’s flashlight telling her she had to move her car, a passerby with unwanted solicitations or someone who might want to hurt her.
Before entering NVCS’ Safe Parking, Yolanda was one of 16,000 individuals in Los Angeles whose home is a vehicle. The lack of affordable housing caused people and families to move into their cars, vans or RVs. The increasing overnight/weekly rates of trailer and RV lots have made it difficult to find a secure place to park.
In response to the increasing demand of vehicle dwellers, NVCS launched its Safe Parking Program on Oct. 1, 2018. Vehicle dwellers experiencing homelessness in the San Fernando Valley would now have a safe place to park with overnight security, cooked meals, showers and all night accessibility to restrooms.
“When [NVCS] opened up and called me to come and sleep that night, oh my God, I’ve never received happy news like that,” said Yolanda, a former Safe Parking participant who is now housed.
Prior to joining the Safe Parking Program, Yolanda was a volunteer at NVCS with the Breakfast and Shower Program which provides hot breakfast and showers to local homeless individuals. During her time volunteering, she also took advantage of these resources and became close with other volunteers, staff and SFV residents.
“When Manny opened the doors to the showers, I asked, ‘Can I take a shower?’ and he said ‘Sure!’ I always thought that it was homelike,” said Yolanda, recounting the hospitality she felt from NVCS Executive Director Manny Flores. Manny soon after offered Yolanda a job as Shower Manager.
The Safe Parking Program is a model for wrap-around services at NVCS, providing not only all-night security but on-site case management to assist individuals in finding housing and work.
While volunteering, Yolanda met a woman from the community who would pick up food at the Food Pantry, and as she got to know Yolanda, she offered her a room to rent in her apartment.
“Safe Parking helped me a lot. When I moved into my apartment they gave me a brand new refrigerator, blankets, sheets and offered me furniture too,” said Yolanda.
From the first night Yolanda spent as part of the program, she felt a sense of relief and safety. It’s this feeling that has stuck with her since her six-month participation in Safe Parking, and it’s the first thing she tells incoming applicants.
It’s been two years since the launch of NVCS’ Safe Parking Program, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, NVCS continues to serve program participants with wrap-around services.
If you would like to participate in the program, please fill out the application on our website. With questions, please contact the Safe Parking Intake Coordinator at 818-891-0481 x 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.