A portion of the Vancouver Mall parking lot has been set up as a zone for people living in their cars, in an effort to encourage shelter-in-place protocols during the coronavirus pandemic even among those without homes.
Starting Thursday, the Vancouver Parks and Recreation department will open up space for 40 vehicles on the mall property. The parking lot encampment will also include portable restrooms, hand-washing stations and garbage bins.
The spaces are free, but they’ll be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Registration will be held 10 a.m. to noon Thursday and Friday. More registration hours may be added if the lot doesn’t fill up after the first two days.
Dave Perlick, recreation manager for the Parks and Recreation Department, emphasized that the mall camp isn’t meant to serve as a home base from which people can come and go. It’s explicitly for quarantine — for people who live in their cars and need a safe, legal place to stay and isolate.
The encampment will last at least until April 30, but could go on longer depending on the novel coronavirus’ impact and guidance from state policymakers.
“The program will continue until the shopping center reopens following the requested ‘stay home stay healthy’ quarantine period,” Tracy Peters, the Vancouver Mall general manager, said in a press release.
“As an important part of the community here in Vancouver, we are pleased to be able to extend help during this unprecedented time to people in our area who are in need, including the homeless and temporarily displaced.”
The safe-parking zone will be located near the C-Tran transit center in the southwest portion of the mall parking lot, located at 8700 N.E. Vancouver Mall Drive.
To receive a parking pass, participants must register in person with an operational and legally licensed vehicle. Capacity will be limited to 40 vehicles, with a maximum of two recreational vehicles or campers.
Each vehicle may contain no more than two adults. Children under 18 are allowed when accompanied by an adult. Pets are also allowed, although leash and cleanup laws will be enforced, and no pet waste bags will be provided.
The site will be monitored by city staff, as well as 24-hour security.
Participants will also need to sign a code of conduct agreement restricting trips off-site to necessary errands only — to get food or medication, for example. They will also be required to practice social distancing behaviors when outside their vehicles, maintaining 6 feet of personal space.
The code of conduct additionally prohibits cooking at the site.