Mount Vernon, WA – For People who have lost their homes, living in their car or a camper may be their only option besides sleeping on the streets. However, finding a safe, legal place to park can often be a challenge. The Mount Vernon City Council has Passed an Emergency Ordinance, effective immediately, that will allow homeless people to park overnight on the properties of religious organizations, such as churches.
The Ordinance was passed on Wednesday, September 11th, 2019 and allows up to twelve people in five cars at each religious organization to park between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m.
The City of Mount Vernon has had two public comment sessions and has heard from both supporters of the homeless having a safe place to park and residents concerned about neighborhood safety and crime. So far, City Officials say no local religious organizations have offered to participate in the program. There will be another required hearing that must be held within the next sixty days before the council is allowed to establish a permanent ordinance.
A similar but much larger Overnight Parking Program (OPP) provided by the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Lane County, Oregon provides legal camping, free garbage disposal, and portable restrooms to homeless families and individuals living in their vehicles. Last Year the Lane County O.P.P. assisted 81 individuals, and 27 families with 41 children who were homeless.
Those who participated were hosted by faith communities, businesses, non-profit organizations or government offices. The O.P.P. provided camper screening/placement, sanitation and trash pick-up and parking site management at no-cost to the host.
The program provided a safe place for people to park and helped families and individuals stabilize their lives and gain better access to services and employment, according to the St Vincent de Paul Society. By providing legal accommodations for people in crisis, St. Vincent de Paul Society said they are also decreasing the number of police calls, which saves the community money.
Visit their website to learn more about how the Lane County Overnight Parking Program works and how it might be able to be implemented in the Mount Vernon or Skagit County area in a similar way to help provide our community members who are homeless a safe place to park overnight. Click here.
There are multiple cities across the U.S. that currently have Overnight Parking Programs in place to address the Overnight Parking issues that many cities are facing.