Vehicular Homelessness in the Time of the Novel Coronavirus

Homeless setting up camp on the sidewalks, living out of vehicle in Oakland CA

They call it “vehicular homelessness” which is a fancy way of describing people who live in their cars, having no other shelter from the elements: no home or apartment. With so many people out of work, due to the novel coronavirus, some have been evicted after failing to come up with rent money. And if they can’t come up with the rent, they certainly can’t afford to find a new place to live. For some people, that means the only place left to live is in their car.

An article in Cities Speak describes initiatives individual cities have taken to counter this problem. Cities have passed ordinances and created new programs to assist people with rent, mortgage and utilities. They’ve opened more shelters, and turned hotels and motels into shelters, as well. And yet, some of the vehicular homeless would rather take shelter in their cars, than turn to others for help.

For this reason, the article goes on to explain, many cities have approved or expanded overnight parking fees in city parking lots. Because if you’re taking shelter in your car, you probably can’t afford hefty parking fees for an overnight stay. And if you’re living in your car, you’re also likely deathly afraid of having your car towed away for being parked in the wrong space. Hence the creation of the Safe Parking Program, initiated by the city of Santa Rosa, California in 2004.

A similar program, the Safe RV Parking Program offers safe parking plus amenities such as hygiene stations, electricity, drinking water, and weekly showers to those living in RVs.

It’s good we live in a country that takes steps to protect our homeless, even when it’s a case of vehicular homelessness. Because everyone deserves safe shelter. Particularly during a global pandemic.

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