• Homelessness

Shining a Light on Homelessness

By Cindy Mendoza and Brice Maryman (excerpted from California Parks & Recreation, Summer 2017)

Many park agencies struggle with how best to address homelessness in parks. Once exclusively an urban problem, now suburban and exurban communities are having to confront this crisis. 

There is no one story of homelessness. Each person got to their situation in different ways and is struggling with a variety of obstacles to get back on their feet. For parks and recreation staff, this variability presents challenges in trying to effectively confront the homelessness crisis. Yet parks and recreation agencies are tasked with providing parks, facilities and programs that reflect an understanding of their community’s needs—including the needs of people who are housed, marginally housed, sheltered and homeless. 

To better understand the needs of all park users, we interviewed homeless people in parks up and down the West Coast to give a glimpse into their different stories and shared obstacles. 

As one of NRPA’s three pillars, the idea of social equity challenges parks staff to reach out to their most vulnerable populations to ensure that all people have access to the benefits of local parks and recreation.

By engaging with members of your community, who are experiencing homelessness, you can frame a new conversation about how best to address overall community needs. This conversation may drive new strategies and tactics for the design, management and planning of these spaces.

Cindy Mendoza, CPRP, is a Senior Project Manager at MIG in Portland, and Brice Maryman, PLA, ASLA, is a Senior Landscape Architect at MIG|SvR in Seattle. Brice produces a podcast through a Landscape Architecture Foundation fellowship, focused on the intersection of homelessness and public space, at homelandlab.com or through iTunes at HomeLandLab.