Safe parking site will be a first for Tacoma. Here’s how the homeless shelter will work

Tacoma’s first safe parking site for those who are homeless is expected to open in early April.

Catholic Community Services will accommodate up to 20 vehicles, serving 40 people at Holy Rosary Parish, 424 S. 30th St.

Safe parking is a shelter model where unhoused people stay in their vehicles in a parking lot that has hygiene facilities. The site has 24/7 on-site management and access to services, including case management to help work toward permanent housing.

Catholic Community Services has several other shelters in Tacoma, including the Nativity House at 702 S 14th St. that has 167 beds and a stability site at 1421 Puyallup Ave. with 100 beds.

The safe parking model will be a first for CCS.

Alan Brown, housing services director at CCS, said in an interview Thursday, by providing safe parking, it provides a safe place for those who are living in their cars on the city’s streets and moves them toward housing and off the streets permanently.

Caleb Carbone, homeless strategy, systems and services manager for the City of Tacoma, said “the city continues to seek to diversify available shelter options to encourage individuals to access services.” The city opened up a low-barrier site with tents in November.

The safe parking site will serve families and single adults. CCS will perform background checks during its intake process to rule out people with violent offenses and sex offenses. Vehicles will need to be operational and licensed.

The Holy Rosary safe parking site will take only vehicles at first. CCS will reevaluate after 90 days to determine if recreational vehicles are feasible, according to Carbone.

The site will be a gated parking lot to control who comes in. There will be a minimum of two CCS staff members to provide security and support at the parking lot at all times.

A case manager will work with safe parking participants to work on a housing plan. Brown said the case manager will help find overnight shelter, housing or relocation. The case manager will also connect participants with vocational training, education and mental health services, he said.

The site will have a 90-day limit for participants, Brown said.

Safe parking participants will be able to access Holy Rosary’s rectory, which was once used as the home of the priest. The 100-year-old Catholic Church was declared unviable in 2020.

The rectory will be used as a support building. It has a kitchen, five bathrooms and laundry facilities.

Brown said the church’s archdiocese approached Catholic Community Services to use the campus for sheltering.

“The lowest hanging fruit was safe parking,” he said.

The church has a large parking lot allowing cars to space out, and it’s centrally located, Brown said.

CCS got the go-ahead from the city in November to set up the safe parking site. Brown said the city has funded a year of safe parking operations, which is about $1 million

He said the safe parking site doesn’t have a set end date and will remain open as long as it’s funded and the archdiocese doesn’t have another plan for the site.

The city has 1,162 emergency, temporary and permanent shelter beds.

Freedom Project, a microshelter site, is also anticipated to open in April with 16 units to serve 32 people. Brotherhood RISE is the provider.