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Local Congressman to introduce bill for Safe Parking Programs

New Beginnings operates safe parking sites in the county of Santa Barbara. The local program started 20 years ago and serves as a model for other states.
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New Beginnings operates safe parking sites in the county of Santa Barbara. The local program started 20 years ago and serves as a model for other states.

A central coast representative is introducing legislation that could bring federal funding to safe parking sites. Congressman Salud Carbajal made the announcement in Santa Barbara where the first Safe Parking program began 20 years ago.

In 2004, Santa Barbara County opened the first-in-the nation Safe Parking program for unhoused people living in their vehicles. That program has grown within the county and serves as a model for similar programs across the country.

It’s operated by New Beginnings. Kristine Schwarz is the Executive Director.

“In all of our 27 lots combined, we have a little over 200 spaces, so every night typically between 175 and 200 a night are sheltered in the lots,” Schwarz said.

She said the Safe Parking program operates overnight from about 7pm until 7am. Participants enroll in the program and are also connected to housing services.

Schwarz said the program relies on funds from individual cities and the county, and private donations.

“There literally is no funding dedicated to this kind of operation anywhere,” she said.

Schwarz said Carbajal’s legislation for access to federal grants would make a significant difference.

The bill is called The Naomi Schwartz and Susan Rose Safe Parking Act, named for the County Supervisors who launched the first program. Carbajal said the goal of the bill is to open up federal funding for Safe Parking sites through HUD’s Emergency Solutions Grants.

“What this does is really just amplify an existing program to make sure that it includes safe parking programs,” he said.

Carbajal plans to introduce the legislation next week. He said the bill has bipartisan support.

Beth Thornton is a freelance reporter for KCBX, and a contributor to Issues & Ideas. She was a 2021 Data Fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, and has contributed to KQED's statewide radio show The California Report.
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