Deschutes County commissioners voted 2-1 this week to approve allowing safe parking sites on county land between Bend and Redmond.
Commissioners Phil Chang and Patti Adair voted in approval. Commissioner Tony DeBone did not.
Safe parking allows the homeless who are living out of their vehicles a place to park overnight without the worry of being towed.
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Those living in the sites are provided with a case manager who helps them find stable housing.
Executive Director of Mountain View Community Development and pastor Rick Russell says safe parking lots also make the surrounding area safer.
“Before safe parking, a lot of our locations had people coming in late at night. Maybe drinking on site, you know, they weren’t supposed to be there. But once you get the presence of people and security, that activity disappears.”
Russell says the county’s decision will help open new safe parking locations for those in need. Still, the challenge of finding willing property owners interested in providing those locations will remain.
“One of the bottlenecks for us is finding locations. So we’re gonna try to reach out to property owners who might be interested in safe parking, and I would encourage property owners to reach out to us as well and open this program to more participants,” Russell said.
For Teresa Sherman, safe parking helped her navigate a life-changing experience.
“There’s a lot of people who are homeless because of the choices they’ve made. And there’s people who don’t have a choice,” Sherman said.
Sherman was diagnosed with cancer six years ago. Soon after, she was left with nothing. She even lost her children.
“I didn’t have a job. I didn’t have money for means. I didn’t have housing. I lost everything. With being in this program, I was able to move from the dirt, go from not having my children to being able to move into a house with my kids and make dinner for them every night. It’s amazing what these people have done for my family,” Sherman said.
Russell says half of their safe parking residents are employed, while the other half are primarily elderly or disabled.