DRAFT All Home Policy Statement on Vehicle Residency Solutions

(for consideration to succeed current All Home Vehicle Residency Policy, June 2016)           

                   dated:   March 15, 2018

All Home Strategic Plan:

Guiding Principles and Strategies

 The All Home Strategic Plan provides a framework for this policy statement on vehicle residency.

Guiding Principles that guide the policy statement offered below:

Prioritize those whose health and safety are most vulnerable

Move people into housing tonight, and employment as able, progressively engaging in services

Incorporate the voices and experiences of those living in or who have lived in their vehicle

Utilize data-driven assessment of needs and outcomes to drive policy and investments

Policies and ordinances that criminalize vehicle residents further imperil exiting homelessness

For purposes of this policy statement, “VR” will refer to those living in vehicles as an interim survival mechanism.

Strategy that guides the policy statement below, from the All Home Strategic Plan:

2.1.B: Increase support and community education for crisis response needs, including interim survival mechanisms such as encampments, safe parking programs, indoor 24x7 shelter, and daytime/ hygiene services that bring people out of the elements and create pathways to housing.

About Vehicle Residency in King County:

Throughout the United States, particularly along the west coast, more people are living in their vehicles than ever.

In 2017, 2,314 people living in vehicles were counted in King County on one night in January, which comes to 42% of the unduplicated, unsheltered count. It is very difficult to count how many people are living in their vehicles, however, due to vehicle mobility, desire of residents to “hide”, and difficulty for counters to discern if someone is living in a vehicle.

People are living in their vehicles in neighborhoods throughout Seattle and in cities and towns throughout King County.

Living in a vehicle, particularly RVs or vans, can be a temporary solution to rising housing costs, job loss, medical crisis, or family crisis.

Living in vehicles, as a last resource, can also be unsafe, worsen the health of inhabitants, and expensive, due to maintenance costs, fees, fines, and more costs.

In urban and suburban settings, “vehicle residents” are parking on public streets, in some cases adjacent to private businesses and homes, creating neighborhood concerns that range from disagreements to efforts to assist their well-being.

Overview of People Living in Vehicles and Related Engagement:

Like other people experiencing homelessness, vehicle residents will either find housing on their own or will need support finding and securing housing. Unlike other people experiencing homelessness, some vehicle residents do not consider themselves homeless. For a small segment, a RV or van can be considered stable housing when a safe off-street place to park exists.

Some vehicle residents seek out services on their own, and some are isolated from services, particularly if the vehicle is not operable or gas money is not handy.

Police departments, parks staff, social services outreach workers, and volunteers are interacting with vehicle residents daily in cities and towns across King County without adequate tools to help.

Targeted outreach that coincides with Coordinated Entry for All (CEA) protocols and goals must become the primary outreach but to date has not filled this gap. CEA networks must become more focused on the streets with mobile outreach protocols.

In Seattle, an insufficient number of social services outreach workers (funded publicly) reach out to people living in vehicles to connect them to services, housing, and safe lots. In other parts of the county, there is very minimal social services outreach. Across all King County cities, a small number of volunteers provide informal outreach.

In most of Seattle and throughout King County, the police department (and parking enforcement) is the primary point of contact with vehicle residents. Many interactions are in response to citizen complaints. In Seattle, the Scofflaw Ordinance (2011) is currently mitigated through the Seattle Scofflaw Mitigation Project (SMP), a volunteer effort enlisting Seattle Parking Enforcement and the Seattle Municipal Court. The SMP is unfunded by the City. No such effort exists countywide. This effort must become systematized through and with the public safety sector to work as a pathway to stability via engagement, outreach, assessment, and referral.

Policy Vision Statement

People living in vehicles collectively constitute a significant population of King County residents experiencing homelessness. They are human beings, not criminals, facing distinct and unique life circumstances. They need safe and legal places to park, access to resources, and support to transition to housing. They should be treated humanely and compassionately, with coordinated and appropriate services determined systemically. For a small segment, the desire to reside in a RV will require safe venues, possibly via the private market.


City Administrators (and Community/Human Services Departments)

Fund programs for outreach to people living in vehicles. Funding could come from existing public safety or human services budgets, philanthropy or corporate donations, or general funds, and must include funds to address immediate harm reduction, such as necessary repair, legal issues, and so on.
Review cost-effectiveness of safe lots and safe zones for housing placement and retention
Align contracts with outreach teams to emphasize exiting immediate harm, and move toward stabilization, and connection to housing
Provide access to hygiene services, waste removal, and public health opportunities
Review and amend policies, practices, and law that sustain and./or  increase the cycle of involvement in criminal justice system and escalate legal financial obligations (include reference and use of Seattle University analyses released 2016-2018).
Determine pathways to restore the legal status for driver and vehicle, to include addressing out of state ticketing and licensing, building stronger partnerships with Courts.

Police, Fire, and Parking Enforcement:

Be equipped to provide clear information to vehicle residents about what is legal and illegal, how to connect to systemic services, to include where housing, treatment, employment, and other services can be found.
Use a community policing approach for engaging with people living in vehicles, and set expectations for the urgent enforcement of laws that adds harm suspension practices and utilizes outreach partnerships.
Provide clear information to housed neighbors about what is legal and illegal. Neighbors observing criminal activity by anyone (including those living in cars) should feel their police are responsive while understanding the legalities of vehicular residency.
Coordinate with service providers to reduce criminal justice involvement and support positive outcomes, such as the LEAD, Navigation Teams, MDOT, and other operational workgroup examples.

Social Services Providers, and Others Doing Outreach and Hosting Sites

Include outreach in partnership with appropriate public safety officers to vehicle residents as part of normal service delivery and funding thereof
Align outreach efforts to ensure access to primary and behavioral health services, and immediate medical options when necessary  
Emphasize stabilization and connection to housing using Coordinated Entry (CEA) wherever publicly funded outreach is occurring
Raise flexible funding to be used to support vehicle residents to keep vehicles street legal (i.e., title, tabs, tickets, DL insurance) and compliant with local ordinances
Utilize provider-owned property, private property to include retail and commercial, and faith community property to host vehicle residents

All Home and Partners

Connect Coordinated Entry (CEA) and existing diversion and navigation funds to vehicle residents, modifying where necessary to bring outreach to the streets

Development of companionship support models and self-use tools to help congregations, businesses, cities, and providers to be companions with vehicle residents, foster safe sites, and guide those at risk to pathways to exit homelessness.

Development of tools to help service providers and other partners work more efficiently with existing and future safe parking programs with public safety, businesses, residents, and neighbors.

Awareness building targeted to vehicle residents, businesses, congregations, and housed residents

Regular stakeholder meetings of all who work with vehicle residents, convened by advocates with the public sector, for consistent performance and to amend work plans, as needed

Regularly review data and protocols that lead us to continue to adapt these recommendations

Businesses, Congregations, and volunteers

Identify, access and connect new congregations and businesses to opportunities to host vehicles in their on-site parking lots
Create a flexible fund to be used for supporting stability, housing placement, and on-host-site capital needs.

For resources about vehicle residency, visit www.allhomekc.org.

to All Home Policy Statement on Vehicle Residency Solutions 

Recommendations for the All Home Vehicle Residency Group
Dec. 8, 2017

Tools requiring further discussion/possible legislative action to implement:

Short-term –

1. Do intentional outreach to VRs, to invite VRs to enter countywide “Safe Parking Program,” overseen by nonprofit (TBD), which provides:

     a)  Regional harm reduction, following protocols at the end of these recommendations;

     b)  Interim on/off street safe parking (either overnight or preferably 24x7), at regional sites;

     c) Trash/porta-potty/RV discharge at every Safe parking site;

     d)  Case management regional referral, to include eventual inclusion in Coordinated Entry for All; i.e., vulnerability assessment, intake to HMIS, immediate enrollment where needed (i.e. SSDI, Medicaid);

     e) Diversion opportunities, provided in outreach toolkit prior to case management, to include funds for repair, fuel, “street legal” issues (tabs, title, current DL, insurance);

2.  Expanding: 1. b) above, to allow 3-5 vehicles be proximate on-street in non-retail, non-residential neighborhoods regionally, with Good Neighbor agreements when proximate to businesses, 1. d) above, and 1. e) above;

3. Expanding 1. b) above to include funded strategies for Safe Parking hosts, such as, faith organizations, nonprofits, and businesses hosting vehicles;

4. For jurisdictions that have electronic plate scanning, enter vehicle plates of verified VRs into system (issue systemic reports for outreach only);

5. Make free bus tickets available (for maintaining a safe parking place and going to work, medical appointments, and so on, where volunteer driver unavailable);

6/ Provide phone and/or phone minutes (necessary to communicate with service providers, work acquisition, etc.);

7. Provide complimentary food cards where a local food bank is not accessible.

Mid-term --

8. Continue expansion of Safe Parking sites in Seattle and around King County, providing off-street and on-street safe parking, access to a bathroom or portable toilet, disposal of trash, RV discharge; seek 24x7 sites and consider overnight-only sites;

    a) Open opportunities for private business to host 2 or more vehicles in businessparking on site (possibly providing security for the business), furthering 3. above;

9.  By jurisdiction, amend the requirements for all vehicle residents, including those outside the formal Safe Parking program, for having to move a vehicle or RV every 24-72 hours in select zones (e.g., keep some consistent countywide requirement across all jurisdictions in residential and retail neighborhoods); in effect, provide harm reduction for those not currently in the Safe parking program;

    a) Develop ordinances covering the payment of tickets and/or deposits toward community service agreements, per the Washington State Constitution (Article VIII, Sec. 7, “…except for the necessary support of the poor and infirm,…”);

10. Form agreements with debt collection agencies where tickets are referred, when other mitigation is impossible, that are only used after a hearing with a Magistrate/Court to assure that the VR is not pushed into indigency and/or loss of vehicle residence;

Long-term  --

11. Modify the Seattle Scofflaw Ordinance (and any other jurisdiction having such an ordinance) to include remedies for vehicle residents and for indigency;

12. Advocate for State Legislative changes to laws governing tabs for the Indigent such that tabs are complimentary annually for those meeting income qualifying standards (in the immediate term, foster a harm reduction program countywide to avoid having tabs remain the prime reason for ticketing).

13. Open publicly-sponsored (or privately-operated through public RFPs) KOA-style lots, with RV utilities, for those seeking to remain in their RVs

Re: Trained outreach workers:

    I. Able to do intake/immediate referrals for the Safe Parking Program

    II. Able to screen and refer to a Safe Parking sites

    III. Able to refer to social services, via All Home Coordinated Entry for All

    IV. Able to refer to a volunteer advocate for assistance** in accessing services

            ** Accompany to Court for tickets, magistrate hearing, financial counseling

            ** Accompany to social service agencies, healthcare appointments, job interviews

Re: Volunteer advocate pool:

    I. Retired social worker or anyone who has taken companionship training

    II. Have insured vehicle and current license, and can transport VR if needed to access services, healthcare appointments, etc.

    III. Have a cell phone (to maintain contact with VR, make social service appointments if needed)

    IV. Able to accompany VR if requested where advocacy may be needed

    V. Willing to complete a basic background check

HARM Reduction Proposals:

1)  Effect a “no impound” advisory across all jurisdictions, placing a moratorium on tows involving vehicles lived in by homeless persons:

    a. Exception -  illegally parked vehicle that is in running order (i.e., is able to move and occupant/driver has chosen not to move),

    b. Exception - overtime parking that is not due to needed repairs (i.e., the vehicle can move under its own power),

    c. Exception - vehicles stalled in a right of way may be towed to a safe off-street place, but not impounded, for vehicles occupied by homeless persons;

2) the 72 hour move rule in Seattle becomes an “interim norm” for all vehicles in which someone lives, across all jurisdictions (replacing all 24 hour move rule requirements);

3)  a “no impound” advisory whenever children are present among those living in a vehicle, and immediate placement in housing using diversion funding.

Prepared by the Interfaith Task Force on Homelessness, Scofflaw Mitigation Project, for the All Home Vehicle Residency Work Groups. Contact itfh@comcast.net or Bill at 425.442.5418 for comment or information.