Safe Lots: Providing Temporary Relief for Homelessness

With an increase in evictions looming as a result of the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, communities already struggling to provide services to those experiencing homelessness, are seeking out new solutions to an age-old problem.

A SafeLot has just opened in Longmont to provide space where people living in vehicles can stay overnight.

Emma Athena writes about Longmont’s new SafeLot in the Boulder Weekly as part of a new multi-part series analyzing how COVID-19 has changed the conversation around homelessness solutions.

The Colorado Safe Parking Initiative estimates that there are 1,000 people living in their cars in the 7 county Denver metro area. Athena says that the actual number of people living in their cars is likely much higher.

“Honestly that seems to be a conservative number. I often heard vehicle dwellers referred to as people hiding in plain sight.  It’s very hard to count the number of folks living in cars, these people they don’t actually want to be found most of the time so they’re intentionally obscuring themselves and they’re intentionally not going to shelters or to different community service hotspots and so they’re often undercounted and therefore also often don’t receive many services that are available.”

Boulder County’s inaugural “SafeLot” is in Longmont. It is a sanctioned parking lot where people living in vehicles can stay overnight, offering some stability and safety that can make all the difference in getting someone back on their feet.

“Folks really are just looking for a small amount of stability and oftentimes that’s all they need to get themselves out of homelessness,” says Athena.

Listen to an interview with Emma Athen about the report:

(Download Audio)

Reporting for this series in the Boulder Weekly was made possible, in part, thanks to the Solutions Journalism Network. KGNU is partnering with the Boulder Weekly to produce a podcast based on the series that will launch at the end of October.