Grant Drives Initiative to Give Mobile Homeless Stable Housing

“John” had been living in his RV for nearly 10 years when Hillary Carr of the Compass Housing Alliance (Seattle) met him. His long beard, toothless grin and bare feet set him apart as much as his calming presence among his homeless friends. Carr and members of the Safe Lots Parking Initiative team got to know John well; in turn, he helped the team by sharing insights, keeping the peace, and being a friendly face in the community. “We let him set his own goals and then gave him all the support we could in reaching them,” Carr remembers.

When circumstances led to John deciding to “go inside,” Carr’s team assisted him with qualifying for a unit in transitional housing and he soon moved in. “Everywhere I go, folks stop to thank me and my team for sticking with their sweet friend and convincing him to take a leap and move into housing where he can be warm, (still barefoot), and safe,” Carr says.

During the year-long term of Wheat Ridge’s Emerging Leader Grant, the Safe Lots team served more than 560 individuals. Not everyone moved into permanent housing—Seattle is notorious for its lack of affordable housing for low-income people—but they received many non-housing services, such as referrals to physicians and mental health professionals, help with job searches, and assistance with maintaining their vehicles and paying fines and fees.

Founded in 2012, the Road to Housing (R2H) program is a collaboration of Compass Alliance, the City of Seattle, and city-wide faith-based organizations. R2H clients are allowed to park in church parking lots, but the Safe Lots initiative aimed to create an additional 50 parking spaces in two City–owned lots.

Shree Virgil, current R2H Program Manager, notes that the initiative has had a few challenges, such as developing necessary operating parameters and managing risks, but it is still moving forward. To address individuals living in RVs, R2H and the City opened the SoDo lot, which is located in a neighborhood within the city’s Industrial District. They are currently in discussion with the City to open another RV lot. “We’ve been finding pretty good outcomes for people who are living in their cars; RVs are a little tricky because people view them as ‘home’,” Vigil says.

One happy outcome involved a single mom and her 9-year-old son living in their car. The mom was working through a temp agency but her working hours were limited because she was trying to keep her child in school. Within four days of meeting her, the team set up a safe place to park, worked with her to secure housing, and provided her with the deposit and first month’s rent for her apartment. Mother and son have now been housed for four months, with her son maintaining at school and attending after-school care so Mom can work full time.

“As we work to find folks stable housing, we need to keep them in their cars and not let them land in the streets, because that’s just one more trauma, one more challenge to go from there.” Vigil says.

Thanks to Wheat Ridge donors, a number of homeless individuals and families in Seattle were given critical stability and assistance while transitioning to stable housing. Your generosity paved the way to a home for many.

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