Making It in the Bay

Making It in the Bay: The Reality of Living in Vehicles

Oakland's Safe Car Parking program provides well lit, secure areas for homeless people living in Cars, RVs

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A sobering fact when it comes to making it in the Bay Area: People living in vehicles is a reality nearly 10,000 people wake up to each and every day, according to recent census data.

Alameda County has the highest number of people living in their cars or RVs at more than 2,800. Most park on the streets and hope no one will bother them.

If they’re fortunate, they’re accepted into the city of Oakland's Safe Car Parking program at Westside Missionary Baptist Church, where the homeless can stay in their vehicles overnight in a lot that is well lit, fenced and patrolled by security.

One mother and her two children make due at the lot in a silver sedan. It pains the woman, who did not wish to be identified, to think the car is the best she can do for her children. When her grandmother died last year, she was forced out of her apartment.

"As you can see, it's a small car, but we make it work," the woman said. "I have a 10-year-old and a 17-year-old, and they don't deserve this, but I'm doing the best that I can do. And they're wonderful kids, even during this situation."

The woman works two jobs while her kids are in school, hoping to save up the $4,000 it will take to put down a deposit on a studio apartment that, at $2,000 to $3,000 a month, she not sure she can even afford.

"It could happen to anybody," she said. "I never thought I would be in this position. I've worked my whole life, I've always been able to take care of my children. ... My kids keep me motivated. I've been in the Bay Area my whole life, and I just can't afford it."

Safe Car Parking launched last year at a number of lots throughout the city. If you know someone who needs a safe place to park, tell them to reach out to the Interfaith Council of Alameda County for a list of requirements and application.

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