A feature story in this month’s issue of Rolling Stone magazine adds to the recent spate of coverage — which also includes NBC Nightly News, NPR, PBS, and People — of New Beginnings Counseling Center, a Santa Barbara-based nonprofit organization that helps the homeless by providing free parking spaces through its Safe Parking Program. The program has also garnered interest from the United Kingdom’s Channel 5 News, France’s Channel 4 News, and South Korean newspapers. More than 500 people currently receive aid from New Beginnings’ program.
Qualifications for the organization’s benefits are few — anyone homeless is eligible. For the Safe Parking Program, current car registration, insurance, and licensing is mandatory, and parking spaces must be vacated between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. There have been very few instances of suspension or expulsion from the program.
“Quite honestly, most people are thrilled to have this opportunity,” said New Beginnings’ executive director, Kristine Schwartz. “We give them a jumping-off point.”
Every week, 50-75 individuals receive food through the nonprofit’s outreach program. Financial assistance is available for vehicle registration and medical or dental care. Sixty homeless people have been housed with New Beginnings so far this year, and the ages of recipients range from 14-70. The majority of participants also receive some form of governmental aid.
New Beginnings is primarily funded by Santa Barbara County and the cities of Santa Barbara and Goleta. “We, frankly, would not be around without the financial support of Santa Barbara and Goleta,” said Schwartz. “They have been very supportive, through either block grants or direct service. We do get some individual grants, but they don’t constitute very much of our budget.”
The article featured in Rolling Stone focuses primarily on the daily life and history behind a couple of Safe Parking Program participants. Janis Adkins, who grew up in Santa Barbara but relocated to Utah and is the main focus of the article, gives a rarely heard but incredibly common perspective on homelessness. Adkins lives in her van and has been relentlessly job hunting for about two years. She recounts in the article instances in which she was easily the most qualified for the job but was turned down because of the stigma associated with homelessness. In addition, she also had experienced trouble in trying to get government aid.
The international attention has inspired other towns to start similar programs. “We work with other communities and share material,” said Schwartz, noting that the organization is currently developing a manual for Goleta and Santa Barbara to use.