top of page
  • Writer's pictureChurch@thePark




More and more, individuals without adequate alternatives are turning to their own vehicles as their preferred sheltering option. Cars, RVs, and trailers have increasingly become "home" for our neighbors who have no stable residency to rely on. In Salem, no legal parking options exist for folks who find themselves facing these circumstances. People sleeping in their vehicles must resort to side streets, store parking lots, or city parks as they attempt to get one good night's sleep at a time. They frequently find themselves at odds with business owners, neighbors, law enforcement, and city staff.

In March of 2020, Church at the Park partnered with the City of Salem to respond to this reality through the formation of the Salem Safe Parking Network. In partnership with local congregations, the Safe Parking program offers safe and legal places for people to park overnight in an attempt to break down one barrier in people's pursuit of housing stability. While host churches provide space and hospitality, C@P manages the registration and placement processes and has dedicated staff who respond to safety concerns and other problem-solving needs. In this week’s newsletter, we want to highlight some of the great work being done through this program and invite you to re-imagine parking lots. We are actively seeking new partners for our Safe Parking program. Along with that, we are asking for support to expand our Safe Parking staff, so that we can provide case management services for our safe parking guests.

ADDING A CASE MANAGER TO OUR SAFE PARKING STAFF WILL ENABLE US TO BUILD MORE SUPPORTIVE RELATIONSHIPS WITH OUR SAFE PARKERS. For $54,000 we can add a case manager to help safe parkers on their journey toward stability, self-sufficiency, and dignity. Will you consider a one-time or monthly gift to help us meet that goal?

  • $180 a month will pay for one safe parker to have access to a case manager.

  • A one-time gift of $1100 will pay for a week of case management for safe parkers.

  • A one-time gift of $4,500 will pay for a Safe Parking Case Manager for one month.


Christian Century magazine recently featured an article about reimagining church parking lots.

“What if the church parking lot functioned more like a plaza where the faith community re-neighbors itself?”

Here are some of the ways that other communities are using their parking lots:

  • Straw Bale GardeningIn one parking space, you can fit 20 straw bales directly on top of the asphalt. These 20 straw bales can yield enough produce to feed a family of four throughout the summer and fall.

  • Farmer’s MarketsFor a few hours each week, a lifeless expanse of asphalt becomes a joyous, boisterous community.

  • Play Areas—Some have blocked off their parking lot for extended periods of time so that neighborhood kids have a safe place to play.

  • Safe Parking—Many are using small sections of their lots to host 1-2 safe parkers.

What would it look like if churches and businesses in Salem and the surrounding communities shared their space in a creative and life-giving way with their neighbors?


TRANSFORMATIONAL HOSPITALITY: An interview with a safe parking couple

Bruce and Debbie shared their story of hardship, struggle, and possibility to encourage us to believe in what can be possible for others. This past August, 50 vehicles were removed from Cascades Gateway Park by force and tow trucks. Bruce and Debbie were not among them because of the hospitality offered by New Hope Church on Cordon Road.

Watch the interview:



Ted, at Westminster Presbyterian, said his community got involved because they saw the need. Some of the neighbors had concerns, but once they explained the expectations and requirements of the program—especially the contract that parkers signed with C@P and the fact that C@P’s safety team helped with oversight—the congregation and neighbors were fully supportive.

One of the unexpected outcomes of the program for Westminster Presbyterian has been the reduction of crime and vandalism. Having someone on site at night has helped to reduce trespassing and litter at their property.

They have also been surprised by some of the neighbors coming over to offer assistance to the couple living in their parking lot. One neighbor recently brought over a meal to them.

C@P is grateful to be able to partner with Westminster Presbyterian and New Hope Foursquare, and the other churches who are opening their properties and their lives to their unsheltered neighbors.

Safe Parking at New Hope Foursquare Church
Safe Parking at New Hope Foursquare Church


This interview with Graham Pruss in Sun Magazine was featured in one of our previous newsletters, but it is worth sharing again.

Here’s one striking quote: “I have never been convinced that taking vulnerable people’s property is an effective way to bring stability to their lives. One reason why cities ticket and tow is to remove these people from public spaces. Such relocations can be deeply traumatizing and often push vehicle residents further toward instability, making it even more difficult to connect with outreach, social services, and housing they may need. It creates fear and distrust. And ultimately, if there is no place for people to go, it doesn’t solve anything.”


Are you or your group INTERESTED IN BECOMING A SAFE PARKING SITE, LEARNING MORE ABOUT SAFE PARKING, working with unsheltered neighbors, volunteering, or just hearing about the values that undergird C@P’s work? We would love to come to your book club, church group, neighborhood meeting, etc for a Q&A session, presentation, or discussion that will fit your needs.


NOMADLAND, winner of the 2021 Academy Award for Best Film, tells the story of one woman’s experience of living in her vehicle. One reviewer describes the film aspatient, compassionate and open, motivated by an impulse to wander and observe rather than to judge or explain.”


In this week’s LECTIONARY READING from John 20, the resurrected Jesus appears to the disciples. They are in a locked room, hiding in fear and somehow Jesus appears in their midst.

Some of us can remember living in times and places where locking our doors wasn’t necessary. We lock our doors for reasons that are sometimes good and sometimes-not-so-good; safety, security, privacy, and protection are all common reasons. Sometimes, in an effort to protect and preserve, we lock everything up so tight that we prevent the good things from getting in. Because we have been hurt so much and so often, we get stuck in “survival mode,” viewing everything and everyone as potential threats. So, like the disciples, we seek safety behind locked doors.

The good news is that locked doors can’t keep Jesus out. Deadbolts are not going to stop the one who conquered death.

If we are locking our door for good or not-so-good reasons, Jesus breaks through, or he just shows up, sometimes uninvited.

Is there a situation in your life where you feel locked into fear, anxiety, doubt, and uncertainty? What would it mean to invite God, the giver of “a peace that passes all understanding” into that space?

Jesus doesn’t just offer us his peace, he invites us and calls us to take that peace out into the world. What would it look like to accept his invitation to carry his forgiveness and peace into a world of fear, violence, and despair?

Here is a prayer/poem based on the reading from John 20.

Incarnated, Resurrected, and Crucified God,

We confess that in our longing for protection, comfort, safety and security we have built walls, locked doors and constructed places of imprisonment and exclusion.

Our desire for preservation leads us to fortification, breaks our imagination, we can’t hear your invitation.

Our fears, anxieties, worries and doubts are justified, yes. But in our minds they are magnified. We steep in them for too long and our hearts become calcified.

We long for Shalom, for a peace that passes all understanding, for a light that outshines the darkness and the death that dwells within us.

Give us courage to unlock our doors, to get up off our floors, to leave the safety of our shores.

Breathe on us even now. Open our eyes, our ears, our hearts and our hands to receive a Spirit of power and compassion.

You send us, just as you, yourself, were sent. As practitioners of peace, harbingers of hope, laborers for love.

We want to follow your call. Amen.


Related Posts

See All


bottom of page