Families in Westchester Oppose ‘Safe Parking Program' for Homeless

Families in Westchester are opposing the "safe parking program" for homeless individuals as the city is getting ready to vote on the issue soon.

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A plan to allow homeless people to park their vehicles at Westchester Park is being met by protests Tuesday. Dozens of parents are opposing the plan, saying it's not safe for kids and senior citizens.

Homeless people living in their vehicles have been allowed to park overnight here at Westchester Park for the past year. The safe parking program is due to expire next month but the city is considering extending it and that's not sitting well with some families who don't feel safe here.

These protestors say Westchester Park off Lincoln Blvd. is not the appropriate place for homeless people to park and live in their vehicles.

"It's frustrating, this is common sense," said Tom Brewster, a Westchester resident. "Let the seniors come in, let the children come in, this is a park for God's sake."

Just one year ago, this park was overrun by homeless encampments but the city found housing for 95 people who had been living in tents at the park.

despite the progress, Tuesday there were still about a dozen people living in RVs parked just outside the senior center. The protestors say they want them gone.

"I love my son and I don't want him coming to the park stepping on used needles and tripping over human feces," Patrick Reynolds, a parent said.

For the past year. the city has allowed a "safe parking program" inside a fenced-in lot on the south side of Westchester Park. People living in their vehicles can park here overnight with access to portable bathrooms, a hand washing station, and security guard, but they have to clear out by 6:30 a.m.

Homeless advocates say it's a well-regulated program.

"People who are in the program are registered and engaging in case management and services," said Stephanie Popescu the co-founder of Grassroots Neighbors. "Being connected with housing, they have to follow rules. You don’t follow the rules you’re no longer welcome in the program."

The safe parking program is due to expire next month but the city's Recreation and Parks Commission is considering extending the program for another year reducing the number of vehicles from 25 to 15.

Even though they are considering reducing the amount of vehicles allowed they would expand the hours to allow homeless parking 24 hours a day instead of only overnight.

"I believe it's a waste of public assets, a misuse of public assets. We should find another place," said Debra Huston, a parent.

Councilman Mike Bonn issued a statement this afternoon saying, "Safe parking is a solution to homelessness and needs to be scaled up not eliminated."

He says the RVs parked outside the senior center are not part of the safe parking program and are subject to being towed if they stay overnight. The Recreation and Parks Commission is set to vote on the issue Thursday.

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