Sussex County officials have turned down an idea promoted by a Georgetown homeless advocate to create a secure parking area in Georgetown for homeless people who live in their cars.
Jim Martin had asked county officials on several occasions to allow parking for up to 25 cars on a section of a 29-acre, county-owned parcel along the southbound lanes of Route 113 across from Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham.
The property is under a farm lease until 2022 with C. Magee Farms of Selbyville.
At the June 25 Sussex County Council meeting, Sussex County Administrator Todd Lawson told Martin the land can't be used for a parking area because the land can only be used under terms of a lease with a Sussex County farmer.
“I need to deflate this idea,” he said. “There is not a remote possibility at this time. There is no possible way this can be allowed under this type of lease.”
In addition, he said, C. Magee Farms does not have the option to sublease any portion of the parcel.
Martin said his only goal is to provide relief for working poor people – those he calls car dwellers – who have no place to sleep at night. “Out of sheer desperation, more and more people are using their cars as affordable housing,” he said. “There is no affordable housing available in the area for people making minimum wage and even up to $10 to $12 an hour.”
He said shared living – with two or more incomes combined – is an option for some people. “But some people prefer to be alone and others have children, which complicates the issue,” he said.
He said he's open to any other options for a parking area from May through October when cold weather shelters open. He said the Shepherds Office would cover expenses and security for a parking area. In addition, he said, people using the parking area would have to supply employment verification and would be vetted, with no drug or alcohol users permitted. “I want to be transparent with the police as well,” he said.
A secure parking area would provide safety, especially for single women and families living in cars, he said. “These are people who are struggling, and we need to give them support so they can keep their jobs,” he said.
“Every turn I'm told no,” he said. “Then the NIMBYs shut everything else down. We can't even get an emergency shelter built in the area.”