The Effectiveness and Cost of Safe Parking

The La Cienga Safe Parking lot holds 50 cars. Routinely between three and 22 cars.  But the City pays for 50 spaces, no matter if they are empty or filled.

If you went into a restaurant, ordered a meal and then it was never delivered, would you still pay for it? Mostly like not. Homeless programs such as Safe Parking promise “meals” but often the table remains empty.

The Los Angeles Homeless Service Authority (LAHSA) and the city spent nearly $6,476 million a year to run the Safe Parking program for what appears to be mostly empty sites.

A fixed rate is paid at each lot ($40 per night per space) and ($48 per space at LAX), regardless of if the lot is empty, has only a few cars, or is half full. According to a May 7 memo from LAHSA to Mayor Karen Bass and City Administrative Officer Matt Szabo, lots range from nine percent to 67 percent filled.And in another discrepancy, it’s hard to get the actual number of spaces, because the number of sites on the LAHSA website (21), doesn’t correspond to the number of lots (17) LAHSA listed in its  memo to the City.

Sixty-seven percent was the highest number given for occupancy. CTN looked at that lot, off Sawtelle at Corinth behind the West LA District Office. It holds 25 cars, but that night there were 14. The cost to the City for one night is $1,000 whether there is one car or 25. Annually, the cost to park cars at that one lot is $365,000.

On May 9, the LAWA Board of Airport Commissioners heard a report about extending the contract through May 31, 2025. They were told that “Since the lot opened on June 1, 2023, enrollment numbers have been on par with, or slightly above, other Safe Parking Program lots. Overnight participant usage rates have ranged from three to 22 vehicles, [the lot has 50 spaces] and lot operations have proceeded without any incidents or known impacts.”

Safe parking participants are supposed to be offered restrooms and showers and laundry facility (or assistance connecting to laundromat services) and help finding a permanent place to live. The two lots CTN visited had porta potties, but no other facilities. A guard/service provider is supposed to be on site for every 25 people.

Nonprofits operating Safeparking are supposed to provide the following information monthly:1. Number of participants served within the previous month, including the total head of households, accompanying minor and adult passengers 2. Number of individuals that have transitioned into stable housing, specifying Permanent versus Interim Housing. 3. Referrals made, specifying type. 4. Tracking of timelines from intake completion to linkages to services and/or housing. 5. Number of Financial Assistance Disbursements and categories. 6. Participant success story when available.

Have nonprofits fulfilled those requirements? There are no metrics presented on LAHSA’s Safeparking here.

CTN also  looked at individual nonprofits working with Safe Parking for that information: Volunteers of America, North Valley Caring Services, Safe Parking Lot, End Homelessness Ca., Special Services for Groups (HOPICS) and WLCAC. There were no stats for safe parking.

Volunteers of America (VOA only lists four lots on its site, although LAHSA has them at 5 and in the memo to the City LAHSA lists them as having two lots. The nonprofits’ annual income is $110 million.   /If

North Valley Caring Services (had three lots listed on LAHSA and three on the memo). That group’s income went from $357,761 (2018) to $8,286,455 (2022).

Community Partners – Safe Parking L.A..  (They had four sites on LAHSA’s website and five sites listed on the memo). CP had assets of $47,722, 802 (2018) and $70,054,669 (2023).

End Homelessness California (two lots on the LAHSA site and two listed in the memo) had $112,578 (2017) and $2,813,954 (2022)

Special Service for Groups HOPICS (had three sites listed on LAHSA and two on the memo). It received $84 million (2018) and $149.1 million (2022). The nonprofit site said it received funding from Measure H, the 2017 L.A. County Sales tax, and a mix of federal, state and city funds.

WLCAC – Watts Labor Community Action Committee – (had two sites on the LAHSA site and two in the memo). The nonprofit showed revenue of $14,263, 174 (2018) and $24,792,737 (2022).

Tim Campbell, in an April 28 Westside current story wrote (“Unraveling the Knot: Discrepancies in LA’s Safe Parking and Homelessness Program Metrics and Billing”) click here. He was asked if there was a total given for money spent solely on Safe Parking.

“That’s almost impossible to answer,” he said. “SPLA has a parent NPO (nonprofit organization) called Community Partners, and the City’s contracts database contains contracts under both names. Worse, the City doesn’t seem to enforce nomenclature conventions, so the contracts are entered under various names like Safe Parking LA, Community Partners/Safe Parking, Safe Parking Los Angeles, etc.

“That makes it exceedingly difficult to find all of the current contracts,” Campbell said.

Although the annual amount spent on safe parking is small compared to many homelessness programs (between $6 and $7 million), Campbell wrote CTN in an email “the lack of verifiable data from providers seems to be a persistent problem in nearly all homelessness programs.

“For example, HOPICS seems to have its fingers in every budget pie the City or County has, yet it put dozens of formerly homeless tenants in danger because it mismanaged a $140 million subsidy program,” Campbell said.

According to LAHSA Safe Parking , this Sawtelle location, is the busiest, filling about 67 percent of the 25 spaces. The City pays for spaces whether they are filled or not..

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One Response to The Effectiveness and Cost of Safe Parking

  1. John Alle says:

    Wow. Really good information. Thx. The executives at LAHSA are not accountable to any higher authority who cares.

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