'Safe Parking' program provides support for homeless living in cars in Los Angeles

NORTH HILLS, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Los Angeles' Safe Parking program was launched Wednesday. The initiative aims to help those experiencing homelessness and living out of their vehicles.

Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez and Mayor Eric Garcetti were on hand to celebrate the city's very first Safe Parking site, located at a church parking lot in the heart of North Hills.

The lot will serve as a safe haven for those living in cars and RVs - people who normally find themselves being chased from one street to the next.

"It's very difficult, and sometimes I'm at the point I'm even afraid to get out of my car, because I don't know if it's going to be towed or stolen or vandalized," said Merle Johnson, who is currently homeless.

Nothing illustrates the dangers of living on the street more than a fatal accident over the weekend. A man was sleeping in his car when he was struck and killed by another driver.

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A homeless man was killed in a hit-and-run crash involving multiple vehicles early Sunday morning in Pacoima.

In addition to providing a safe place to sleep, the Safe Parking program also provides access to services.

"We have demonstrated our ability to provide these services and help connect families - not just with safe parking facilities for overnight parking but more importantly, connecting them to resources that are helping to facilitate that into housing," Rodriguez said.

City leaders believe there are close to 9,000 people living in cars and RVs across the city. That's why they are planning a lot more Safe Parking locations - as many as they can fund.

"We worked closely with the council offices as we're standing up these facilities. There are over nine sites underway, five have started, there are four more in process. They'll be open by the end of this year. And they receive support from local communities," said Peter Lynn with L.A. City Homeless Services.

Many of those communities prefer to see people live in their RVs and cars in a controlled environment rather than on local city streets.
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