Article: ‘Safe park’ for homeless planned in Puyallup

By on November 29, 2010. Posted in .

Below is a News Tribune article today about planned homeless camps here in Puyallup. But first, our comments.

Many of the families that we serve in our Emergency and Transitional housing programs come from situations where they are living in their cars, and a safe place for families to park in the time before they access services is welcomed, as families should not have to sleep in fear. We would agree with the Homeless Coalition that there are better solutions needed, and we believe that the very best solution to family homelessness is the best-practice we have adopted – shelter in single family units, intensive case management and accountability, and heavy investment in the keys to ending the cycle of homelessness – education and living-wage jobs. We welcome increased partnerships around these pillars in the City of Puyallup – to end family homelessness by giving families the tools they need to never be homeless again.

Safe park’ for homeless planned in Puyallup

SARA SCHILLING; Staff writer
A Puyallup group working to coordinate a series of temporary camps for the homeless plans to start by offering a place for people living in their cars to park overnight.

There’s no firm date, but leaders hope a temporary “safe park” will open in the next couple of months, said Ted Brackman, co-founder of the Puyallup Homeless Coalition.

It would be the only one of its kind in Pierce County.

“The hard reality is we do have moms, dads, kids living out in the elements. Tonight, last night. It’s very sad,” Brackman said.

He and other coalition leaders pushed for a city ordinance allowing tent cities and other temporary encampments. It was approved by the City Council in September, as required by a state law approved early this year. Religious groups are now free to host temporary camps under conditions set by their host cities.

Under Puyallup’s ordinance, the encampments can serve up to 40 people and last a maximum of 90 days. Only one can operate at a time.

The coalition has been working with Puyallup churches to coordinate the camps. Leaders have pointed to Camp Quixote in Thurston County as a model; it started more than three years ago and runs year-round at rotating locations.

But opening the first camp in Puyallup isn’t as simple as finding a willing church with enough space, Brackman said. The encampments must meet requirements such as having toilets, hand-washing stations, garbage cans and a security plan.

They also must be “buffered and screened” from neighbors. The intent also is to connect campers with social services they need to get off the streets, Brackman said.

He said a “safe park” is a good way to start implementing the ordinance. Many people who lose their homes or don’t have anywhere else to go spend the night in their cars and need a place to park where they aren’t vulnerable to break-ins or other problems, he said.

Other communities have tried the “safe park” approach. Kitsap County and Kitsap Community Resources instituted it on a trial basis early this year by using a parking lot with nearby bathroom facilities, security and caseworker help. Another group opened a safe park for single women in Poulsbo this year.

In Puyallup, the number of homeless people isn’t known, but it’s estimated to be several hundred. A January count found 1,807 homeless adults and children throughout Pierce County.

Homeless advocates said the need for services is even more pressing in the bad weather and bad economy.

“We used to see families that were in and out of homelessness,” said Bev Cascio of Open Hearth, a program of Associated Ministries in Tacoma that provides emergency motel vouchers in east Pierce County, including Puyallup.

But many people seeking help now used to have homes and jobs and fell on hard times, she said. The group served about 120 families for all of 2009 and already has surpassed that number this year, she said.

Brackman said that while the coalition works on the temporary camps, it’s also trying to find a long-term solution to the problem of homelessness in Puyallup. The group earlier this month coordinated a series of events for national Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, including a roundtable discussion of community leaders.

Another discussion is planned for 7 p.m. Dec. 13, with the location yet to be determined. The goal is to come up with a citywide strategy, Brackman said.

Until that’s in place, “we’re going to be faced with trying to fill in gaps,” he said. “The gaps are always bigger than what we can fill.”

Sara Schilling: 253-552-7058

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