Bringing Help to People Living in Cars

Often, the word “homeless” calls to mind a person, usually a man, living on the street. But many times, people–often families–with nowhere else to turn they survive the elements by moving their cars to residential streets and living in there in those neighborhoods. Hoping to re-create a successful program to place homeless individuals in permanent housing, the non-profit St. Joseph Center this month will begin reaching out to people living in their vehicles in the Rancho Dominguez area of Los Angeles County.

As part of this program, funded by the office of Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the St. Joseph Center will seek out people living in vehicles and offer them services, such as help treating substance abuse or finding a job, to help them improve their lives.

According to the Los Angeles Housing Authority, more than 8,000 people live in their cars in Los Angeles County.  Many people retreat to living in their cars for a variety of reasons: they cannot afford to rent or buy in Los Angeles, are unemployed or are simply down on theirkid luck.

The St. Joseph’s team will include a clinician who will assess and treat individuals with mental health and/or substance abuse issues. The team will also help people living in their cars create independent living goals, including employment skills and training. In addition, eligible individuals may be able to secure permanent housing with the use of short-term rental assistance and services that will help them transition within four months.

The St. Joseph Center has worked to improve the lives of working poor families and homeless individuals in the Los Angeles area since 1976, providing a variety of services to homeless people such as rapid re-housing assistance, mental health and substance abuse treatment, transportation assistance, independent living skills training and permanent housing placement.

“This approach is one that works toward a long-end goal, which is getting people in permanent housing,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas. “The only way to sufficiently put a dent on this problem of chronic homelessness is to give people the services they need to get back on their feet. This program is one that makes sense and will help those individuals as well as address concerns in neighborhoods where these vehicles are parked.”