Oakland partners with faith leaders to offer homeless safe parking for their vehicles

Oakland is partnering with faith leaders to offer safe places for the homeless to park their vehicles overnight. If all goes as planned, the program could be up and running in a few months.

City council members on the life enrichment committee approved the safe parking program Tuesday evening. 

"It's a whole other world at night," said Iesha Moss, a homeless woman who says she has been living out of vehicles for the past four years. 

She is parked in an industrial area of West Oakland. 

"It's not safe, especially if you're a woman. They try to bully you because you're a woman.  You got to hold your own," said the 33-year-old. 

Moss says the loss of a job and caring for her mother who suffers from pancreatic and kidney cancer have left them homeless.

"It's rough out here," said Peggy Peterson, Moss's mother who lives with her daughter in vehicles. 

The 62-year-old says thieves have broken into their vehicles.   

"They be taking our nice stuff, so I'm just trying to get out of here as fast as I can. I don't like it here," said Peterson. 

The women and others living out of their vehicles may soon be getting help.

Reverend Ken Chambers is the founder of the Interfaith Council.  He's  working with city leaders to open up church parking lots so the homeless living in their vehicles  can have a safe space to park. 

"Welcome to the West Side Missionary Baptist Church," said Chambers as he brought a KTVU crew to his church.

If approved, the parking lot of Chamber's church is among five such lots that would open to the homeless to park from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. 

The safe parking program will cost the city $300,000 in the first year.  The money will pay for security, an on-site coordinator and port a potties.  

"So we don't have sewage running through the streets. By having dedicated allowable spaces, we can have bathrooms.  We can have pump out services for sewage tanks," said Oakland city councilmember Rebecca Kaplan. 

The church sanctuary will be turned into a headquarters where services are offered. 

The women say they hope being allowed to park in a church parking lot will help them transition back into stable housing. 

"At least you know the people who are in a parking lot, but on the street, it can change everyday," said Peterson. 

"That'll be a blessing because churches can handle any situation.  It's in god's hand," said Moss. 

The city council is scheduled to vote on the safe parking program next Tuesday.  It's expected to pass.

Rev. Chambers hopes to have the church parking lots open to help the homeless by January.