EVERETT, Wash. – About a third of homeless people in Snohomish County live in their vehicles, according to the latest Point in Time Count. There’s a new effort to help families who live in cars find a way out of homelessness. The city just approved a $25,000 pilot program to allow for a safe parking lot. The location hasn’t been selected.
There’s nothing more important to Everett mom, Deanna, than her two boys. She has a 2-year-old son Hunter and an 11-year-old son Matthew.
“He saved my life. He doesn’t even know,” said Deanna.
Matthew was her motivation to stop using drugs and go to rehab.
“I couch surfed for a long time and all of my options were just kind of gone. It was very scary,” said Deanna.
It took losing Matthew to the state and living in her car in the woods for six months before she reached a turning point.
“I’m going to die. I’m going to starve. I’m going to freeze to death,” said Deanna.
It’s the reality for so many homeless families living in their cars in Everett. A population Jim Dean reaches out to at the Interfaith Family Shelter.
“We had one day last week, eight families asking for help. The total number of un-duplicated calls last week was 25 and we had room for one family that day,” said Dean.
So he wrote a grant to get $25,000 from the city of Everett to open a safe lot. $10,000 is to get the site ready with trash pick up and other maintenance; the rest of the money will go to case management to end the cycle of homelessness.
“They’ve been surveyed, they’ve got a background check that makes sure there’s nothing that’s going to hurt children. (It) doesn’t mean they’ve quit using drugs and doesn’t mean they don’t have problems. It just means we’ve checked to make sure they won’t add to the problem,” said Dean.
Dean says the majority saw their rent go up and their income stay the same.
“What I’ve seen… five children and two parents living in a Durango in our town,” said Dean.
Dean says he won’t put the lot just anywhere. The parking lot at Thornton Sullivan Park wouldn’t work because it’s too close to a main road. Dean wants it more secluded, near public transportation, where families can have access to wrap around services at a faith-based institution.
“They’ll have someone check in with them to work with them to find housing,” said Dean.
After a little bit of help and a lot of will power, Deanna now celebrates ten years sober.
“We started out in transitional housing and we ended up getting our own place and now we just bought a home this year,” said Deanna.
She’s hopeful other families can do the same.
Dean says he want to start with just one safe parking lot for families with five spaces. But he hopes that will turn into three or four lots around Everett. While there is no exact location for the first safe parking lot, Dean says he’s in talks with several churches in the area.