Safe Parking Program – Summary

Homeless Action is a group of individuals who are striving to explore practical short and long term solutions to the needs of our sisters and brothers who do not have decent housing.

See also the Sonoma County Task Force for the Homeless and the county Continuum of Care for thorough coverage of these issues.

This was the original concept of Safe Parking.  Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa has developed this into a program described here.

The Press Democrat April 15, 2014 

What is Safe Parking?
Homeless individuals often find it necessary to sleep in their vehicles when there are no other alternatives. However, sleeping in vehicles on the street is frequently either prohibited by law or is unsafe.

The immediate objective of Safe Parking is to provide safe places to park and sleep so that participants are not in danger of citation or harassment. The long-term goal of Safe Parking is to assist participants in securing permanent housing.

How it Works:
Generally, the spaces at each site are limited in number and are specifically designated. Pre-screened participants are assigned a specific spot and, in the case of private locations, are given placards to display on their vehicles. Participants follow rules about arrival and departure times, personal behavior and care of the site and any facilities they have been given access to (such as bathrooms). The emphasis is on maintaining a low-profile that does not impact other operations at the site or disturb its neighbors.

Public Spaces: A county or city may designate a publically-owned property for Safe Parking. This can be for a limited or extended period of time and can be administered by itself or by another agency. Here in Sonoma County, such a pilot program is underway (Winter 2014) at the Fairgrounds where 50 spaces have been set aside and are being administered by Catholic Charities.

Private Spaces: Churches, non-profits and businesses may also allow Safe Parking on their properties. The number of spaces offered at each location is generally fewer than at public locations–usually one to seven–depending on the site. Permitted hours of parking and other rules are tailored to meet the requirements of the specific site or business. Some businesses and organizations allow Safe Parking on an informal basis; some establish a relationship with a specific social service and provide spaces only to its clients; and others participate in centralized programs where help is offered to participants from the entire community.  See here.

Centralized Safe Parking Programs: A Centralized Safe Parking Program can serve either public or private sites or both. In such programs, screening is an important component of the process. Prospective participants do not come directly to the sites but apply with the administering agency. The agency’s counselors evaluate the participants’ needs, determine what other social services might be of benefit to them and decide whether the candidates are likely to be successful as Safe Parking participants. Only then are individuals directed to the parking site. Likewise, the agency is available to follow up if problems arise. In Santa Rosa, Catholic Charities has been selected to play this administrating role.

If You Participate:
If you or your organization is considering participating, you will have many questions and concerns not addressed in this over-view. We would be happy to meet with you to answer your questions and shape a program that works for your site. Thank you for considering being a Safe Parking provider.

Sonoma County Private Safe Parking Program

Concept paper


Due to concern expressed by many people in our county, the Sonoma County Task Force on the Homeless and a related group, Homeless Action! sought new solutions for shelter and other help for our county’s 4,200 homeless people. One solution is to operate a program to provide safe overnight parking on private property for individuals and families who are living in their vehicles. There is a separate and similar effort to develop a parking model on Public Property (e.g. County or City).
This document as well as the related information for the participants outlines how private parking places may be provided for vehicle dwellers.


Private property owners can give written permission for homeless people to sleep on their property without any concern for laws that affect vehicle use on streets and other public areas.
The program envisions various organizations, such as congregations and businesses, offering spaces at dispersed locations in the greater Sonoma County area. Your organization could be one of those who offer free nightly parking for one to four vehicles. (It was recommended by the program in San Luis Obispo to keep the number small for any one location for such a private property program.) Your organization could provide the level of stability needed by vehicle dwellers to effectively make positive changes in their lives and become re-employed and re-housed as quickly as possible. In addition to parking, homeless service providers in Sonoma County will offer some social services and case management to help them achieve this end.


Churches, non-profits and businesses interested in participating in the program agree to a basic set of rules for the vehicle dwellers on their property. The participating institutions are free to augment or edit the rules as they see fit in accordance with County and/or City codes.

Homeless individuals seeking to participate in this program will receive an initial assessment provided by a local homeless service provider. Local service providers may also work with these individuals as clients to establish long-term goals and housing plans.

If no service provider is available, your church, organization or business can screen people. Typical screening discussions for parking space include the following:

  • Does the person without shelter understand and agree to work within the guidelines of this program?
  • Is there is a desire to work with local social service agencies?

After the intake, the participant will be issued a signed placard with a copy of the guidelines and allowed to park overnight at an assigned location.

There is no formal limit to the amount of time that a participant may occupy a site. That is something each parking site sponsor can determine. Some participants will take advantage of the service for a short period of time; others occupy a parking space for up to a year or more, depending on their needs. Participants who are not willing to abide by the rules of the program, may be referred to social service agencies rather than offered a parking site.

A sample of rules / guidelines is included below.

If your organization is interested in this concept then Homeless Action members can send some suggestions for the Parking site sponsor to select the specific spaces in their lot, how many, safety considerations, etc.


In addition to these rules, all clients should be asked to sign a release of information and a waiver of liability towards your organization, indicating that neither party is responsible for damages to the vehicle, and allowing us to share client information.

Liability insurance for each Safe Parking lot location is the purview of the Parking site provider. Consultation with your Insurance provider is recommended.

In closing, we hope you will consider participating in this program. If you have any questions about this introductory packet, please call Adrienne Lauby at (707) 795-2890 and , or Gerry La Londe-Berg at (707)569-4280 and

If your organization would like to communicate with one of our churches or non-profit organizations that are currently working with us we would be happy to connect you with those organizations. It is important to gain various perspectives on the program in order to make a balanced decision that is in the best interest of your organization, while also thinking about the needs of homeless individuals in our community who are forced to live in their vehicles.

Web resources: => A link to a Rolling Stone article about the Santa Barbara Program this Sonoma County plan is modeled on.

The following document will be signed by each person staying at a site.

The parking site provider is only agreeing to give the participants a place to park. Below are the guidelines that the client must agree to in order to participate in the Safe Parking Program.

1. Guns, firearms, or other weapons are prohibited. Failure to abide by this rule will result in immediate removal from the assigned location.
2. Aggressive behaviors such as shouting or physical violence toward others will not be tolerated. Failure to abide by this rule will result in immediate removal from the assigned location. Alcohol and drug use is discouraged.
3. Camping tarps or camping equipment beyond the top of the vehicle are prohibited.
4. Cooking outside the vehicle is absolutely not allowed.
5. All trash will be disposed of either in designated garbage bins or offsite. The area will be kept tidy.
6. Loud music is not permitted.
7. Parking lot spaces are for sleeping use only.
8. Overnight stays will be limited to the hours designated by the host organization. Adherence to in and out times is mandatory.
9. Users must keep barking dogs in their vehicle at all times. Animals must be kept on a leash at all times on the property. Animal waste must be must be picked up immediately and disposed of properly.
10. Under absolutely no conditions will the client(s) invite other vehicle dwellers to occupy the site.
11. If bathroom facilities are provided, showering or bathing is not permitted.
12. The owner of the parking lot is not liable for damages caused by a third party to the parked vehicle or its occupants.
13. Absolutely no more than one vehicle allowed per individual or family staying at the site.
14. Absolutely no use of the facility services without explicit written permission of the owner, i.e., ELECTRICITY, water, trash or any of the hoses at the site. Failure to comply with this rule will result in immediate termination from our program.
15. Please respect the privacy of the surrounding neighbors and their property.
16. Children will be watched and kept safe at All Times — No Exceptions!!!!!
17. Notify us immediately if you are leaving for more than 7 days. If you have been issued a key to a site facility, please return it when you leave.
Failure to comply with these guidelines will result in termination from the Safe Parking Program.

Each local site reserves the right to terminate participation in the Safe Parking Program at any time, for any reason. Warnings may be issued to participants for minor infractions, e.g., leaving the lot late, etc.

In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the participating providers of parking spaces do not discriminate against people with disabilities. Please discuss your access needs during the intake interview. We will attempt to meet them.

I / We, Accept and agree to respect, acknowledge and adhere to the rules, policy, and procedure; guidelines and regulations that are stated above and will accept full responsibility of the consequences of the outcome if there is a violation to this contract.

(Signature of Participant) (date)

(Signature of Parking Space Provider ) (date)

Without a place to call home in Sonoma County, California

Everyone needs a place to sleep, to prepare food, and to relax to be ready for the next day.

This entry offers an overview of people, their needs and services in Sonoma County, California.

There are three key organizing coalitions who are trying to resolve this problem.

The Sonoma County Task Force on the Homeless

The Sonoma County Community Development Commission and the organizing effort it houses known as the Continuum of Care.

The Continuum of Care is the local manifestation of the federal government’s efforts throughout the country

The appropriate place to start is by watching the most recent report on homelessness in Sonoma County.

Ten Year plan and toolbox.

A PowerPoint is located at So Co Homeless Data Sourcebook 2013.