At 8 p.m. on a Tuesday, most Angelenos are preparing for bed but not the Cohens. Pat and Ira are just getting started at Safe Parking LA. They criss-cross the spacious parking lot, distributing food and discussing plans to connect a young family in need with support services. A few years ago, this was just an idea.
The Cohens with their team at Safe Parking LA
Pat, a long-time homelessness advocate, heard about a program in Santa Barbara that helped individuals living out of their cars access safe parking lots to sleep in. She brought the idea to Ira, her husband of 23 years. “Every day we’re exposed to the tragedy and trauma that’s going on. I know it’s happening all over the world, but I want to help Los Angeles,” Pat said.
In 2017, they opened the first Safe Parking LA lot outside of St. Mary’s in Koreatown to create safe spaces for a surging population of Angelenos who are forced to live out of their cars, due to the crippling lack of affordable housing. The latest point-in-time count showed this could be as many as 16,500 individuals on any given night.
“This is only a temporary safe place to be until they get housed,” Pat clarifies, noting that each location provides access to an ADA-equipped restroom and has a security guard on-site.
Today, there are eight Safe Parking LA lots across Los Angeles County but Pat and Ira spend most of their time at the lot on the Department of Veteran Affairs health care campus in West L.A. “We’ve housed half of the people who applied there,” Ira says, explaining that social workers help connect those who access their lots to permanent housing opportunities, in addition to support services like employment training and treatment programs.
Safe Parking LA is part of a growing network of donors, nonprofit service providers, local government and philanthropic partners that are collectively stitching together solutions to bring more Angelenos home.
“The California Community Foundation has been a very generous partner,” Pat said. Ira continued, “Through two luncheons at CCF, we’ve met other donors who have turned out to be phenomenal donors for Safe Parking LA.”
The California Community Foundation has been helping donors like the Cohens weave their generosity and passion into lasting impact for more than a century. Our services are tailored to fit specific donors’ needs—from providing thorough research on nonprofits and charitable opportunities to developing family giving plans for future and current generations. Our expert staff understand the issues and how to find the most effective organizations to meet our donors’ goals, anywhere in the world. This year, CCF donors supported an array of causes and nonprofits, using their Donor Advised Funds to give more than 4,700 grants totaling over $175 million.