SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - During the past pandemic year, Julie Bowen called her car home.
Bowen said she was taking care of her sick mother before she died, and then she got sick and couldn't work anymore as a realtor. She lost her home of 22 years.
Santa Barbara County's Safe Parking Program helped her.
Bowen's story, and others like it, inspired Rep. Salud Carbajal to introduce the Naomi Schwartz Safe Parking Program Act named after the late supervisor who championed it.
“When you consider the challenges of people experiencing homelessness throughout our country, we need this program and we need it now,” said Carbajal.
It began in Santa Barbara in the county administration lot and has been copied in other countries, states and communities including Lompoc and Los Angeles.
But with only 150 parking spaces dispersed in 26 undisclosed locations, former supervisor Susan Rose said more spaces are needed. She helped establish the program in 2004 and serves on the New Beginnings Advisory Council.
Rose said it was written about in Rolling Stone magazine and she is thrilled to see it being used as a model to help people living out of their cars, trucks and RVs.
If passed and signed by President Biden, $125 million in Federal funds would go towards five-year grants through the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The money would be used to pay for parking lot insurance and services to help people transition into housing.
Bowen said she now has housing thanks to the program and its New Beginnings partnership.
Congressman Carbajal said the act is heading to a Finance Committee led by Rep. Maxine Waters.
He calls it a bipartisan bill that could be signed into law within two years.