Catholic Charities’ safe-parking program loses funding in Santa Rosa

A $400,000 funding gap has led Catholic Charities to end its safe-parking program July 17 in order to save beds and services at its Family Support Center.

The July 17 date includes a two-week extension for the two-year program that serves 78 participants at eight sites around Santa Rosa.

Catholic Charities chose axing funds to the program in order to save beds and services at the 138-bed Family Support Center, said Jennielynn Holmes, senior director of shelter and housing at Catholic Charities.

'It's heartbreaking. As a service provider and as a human being you never want to see services reduced,' Holmes said.

Participants in the safe-parking program have access to bathrooms and services by Catholic Charities staff. The program had a budget of $150,000 for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

Catholic Charities will try to accommodate 40 vehicles in the parking lots at the Family Support Center and the Nightingale shelter where there are existing bathrooms and staff onsite, Holmes said.

The cutbacks stem from a loss of nearly $600,000 in California Emergency Solutions Grant money in 2016, Holmes said. Catholic Charities was able to raise $200,000 and Sonoma County chipped in to fill the remaining $400,000 gap for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

But with the passage of the 2017-18 budget earlier this month, county supervisors stopped fully funding the nonprofit's shortfall, Holmes said.

Participants who will be forced to park elsewhere were told by Catholic Charities they would be given priority at the emergency shelter and have an outreach worker made available to them. But some of the homeless living in their vehicles said they'll be displaced and less secure at night.

'There is so much safety and community here,' said Marilee Diehl, 59, who has slept in her van while parked on a lot on Sonoma County property on Administrative Drive in Santa Rosa since April. The parking at the county campus is home to roughly two-thirds of the 78 safe-parking participants.

'We'll have to go out on the street where there's danger. We didn't know where we were going to go,' Diehl said.

Diehl has organized with more than a dozen other homeless men and women involved in the program to seek solutions. For her, the security of the safe parking program has given her a foundation to move toward housing.

You can reach Staff Writer Nick Rahaim at 707-521-5203 or On Twitter @nrahaim.

Media outlets around the Bay Area are running a variety of stories on homelessness this week. To see more coverage go to

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