Los Angeles CA March 15 2019-It’s a chilly winter evening in Los Angeles as Cameron Jones maneuvers his white sports car into an open-air parking lot and picks a secluded spot where he can recline his seat and call it a night.”I lost my apartment about 10 days ago because I couldn’t afford the $2,200 rent and was told this is a safe place to be until I get back on my feet,” said Jones.
“I can sleep soundly here without having to keep waking up at night and looking over my shoulder,” added the 26-year-old Marine Corps veteran, who served in Afghanistan and now works for a company that sells solar panels. Jones joined a health club in order to shower every morning before going to work. His suit hangs in the back seat, ready for use.
Within an hour or so, about a dozen other vehicles — some with children inside — fill the lot that is part of a growing number of so-called “safe parking” areas in California and other US states. Half a dozen such lots monitored by security guards have sprung up in the Los Angeles area in the last year, offering a temporary safe haven to some of the more than 15,500 people in the region who live in their vehicles.
One “safe parking” is located at the back of a church, another at a synagogue and a third at the sprawling campus operated by the US Department of Veterans Affairs. Portable toilets and hand-washing stations are available to the vehicle dwellers who must fill out an application before being granted access to the lots.
Military veteran Carlos Gonzalez Jr. — who was stationed in Japan and Thailand — has been living in his RV for a few years, and “safe parking” means he does not have to constantly moveNearly 554,000 people in the United States were homeless in 2017, according to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
About 25 percent of them — or 134,000 — lived in California, the highest number of any state.California also has the highest rate of so-called “unsheltered” homeless — meaning people who are living in vehicles, abandoned buildings, parks or on the street, according to HUD.