Overnight parking program for homeless to start at Oakland churches

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Members of Oakland's Williams Chapel Baptist Church walk by faith. Recently, they were led to their parking lot with a mission.

Starting Monday, the church lot will be used for homeless Oakland residents to sleep in their cars overnight.

"We're starting off right now with 10 to 15 cars that will be along this fence," Dr. Kenneth Anderson, the church's pastor, said. "How can we turn our heads? So again, if it starts with the cars, that's a start."

Anderson showed ABC7 News around the parking lot. There's a Port-O-Potty, water station and video surveillance.

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While residents are sleeping, security guards will be on site. Resources like employment training will be offered during the day at West Side Missionary Baptist Church.

The program is slated to expand to other Oakland churches later in the year. It's called the Interfaith Council of Alameda County Safe Car Park Program.

"These will be individuals that are employed," Anderson said. "There are a lot of college students that are trying to get their education, but don't have a place to sleep."

"It's really sad to see families with babies and little children sleeping in their cars in the streets," Doris Butler, an Oakland resident, said.

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According to the county, as of 2017, almost 50% of Alameda County's homeless population live in Oakland, with seven out of every ten homeless residents going unsheltered on any given day.

"I've always thought, 'What can we do as a church?'" Deloris Whitehead, an Oakland resident, said.

Faith told the congregation the parking lot was the answer. They have the blessing of city and county money to fund it.

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