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Denver group provides safe place to park for people forced to live in their cars

Colorado Safe Parking Initiative, provides meals, bathrooms and secure places for people living in their cars to park without getting ticketed or towed.

DENVER — Like many in this country, the global pandemic took Randy Chase’s job in California last spring – so he trekked it back to Colorado where he continues to wait for his first unemployment check while living in his truck.

Along with a handful of others in a lit, undisclosed church parking lot on the metro area’s northwest side, Chase called a designated parking space with a numbered placard, home. 

“I think I just kind of go into this experience knowing I’m going to survive," said Chase. "Like on the coldest of cold nights, when I wasn’t able to get a hotel voucher, I slept here in this parking lot with my heater plugged in and it was comfortable and survivable."

The safe space is thanks to the Colorado Safe Parking Initiative, a small grassroots group. The organization partners with different religious entities to provide a meal, a bathroom and a secure place to park a car to sleep in through the night without getting ticketed or towed.

When Chase attempted to start his truck he was met with the sound of a stalled engine, it was yet another reminder he'd be there a while.

“I was hoping maybe [it’d start], but no,” he said with a chuckle.

On a cold Tuesday night, his truck sat with a heater on the dashboard with its red light illuminated, thanks to an outdoor electric hook-up.

“I'm able to plug in and have power,” he said. “It makes living in a car in Denver a little more pleasant.”

He said he doesn't have to worry if someone knocks on his window in the middle of the night ordering him to move. "That's an immense amount of comfort,” Chase stressed.

A comfort, Rochelle Brogan hopes to provide to more people. Brogan, a founder of Colorado Safe Parking Initiative told 9NEWS, in order to retain a temporary spot, a person needs to apply on their website. There is a brief interview and a background check. Brogan also added the locations of the lots are not publicly known, to keep those leaving domestic violence situations, safe.

“The need is there,” she said via Zoom. “We have a really great solution we need to take advantage of it.”

So far, Brogan said she has about a handful of secure lots scattered throughout the Denver metro area, but she stressed in the coming months, as the eviction moratorium eventually expires, she’d likely need more.

“I believe we’re going to get inundated here pretty soon,” she said. “My goal is that we have a small safe parking lot in every district in Denver. The demand is there, they would be full. Compassion and social justice, we need to step up.”

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