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Costs of Seattle's 'Safe Lot' for Homeless in Cars Questioned

The city has proposed a "safe lot" for homeless residents living out of their cars, but the cost could run above $1,000 a person.
October 22, 2019, 9am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Seattle Times Columnist Danny Westneat weighs in a proposed "safe lot" in Seattle, "where homeless folks living in their cars can park off the street for the night."

The "safe lot" idea has been germinating in Seattle for a long time already, but now that the official proposal is here, it's mostly an example of government overspending, according to Westneat.

"Only this being Seattle, it’s projected to cost the city $382,000. That’s for overnight parking in one lot in the U District, holding 20 to 30 cars. Which means each spot would cost $1,000 to $1,500 a month – in the ballpark of what it costs to rent a studio apartment."

Westneat traces the origin of the idea, back to his own involvement in a story on the subject 15 years ago, and notes the other cities around the country that have implemented a similar program. (On that latter point, San Francisco is the most recent city to propose such a lot.)

"We don’t even have to travel to California to learn how," writes Westneat to explain that it should be much cheaper and easier to implement this idea. "Lake Washington United Methodist Church in Kirkland has been hosting up to 55 car-campers per night in its church parking lot since 2011 – which makes it one of the largest providers to the vehicular homeless on the West Coast."

For an indication of why the difference in cost arises, Westneat notes that the church uses volunteer labor, while the city will have to staff 24-hour security to appease neighbors.

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Published on Friday, October 18, 2019 in Seattle Times
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