Unsheltered in Summit Safe Parking Program will double its occupancy after it officially relocates to the Frisco Bay Marina Oct. 13

The parking lot at Frisco Bay Marina is pictured Wednesday, April 14. It was announced this week that the Town of Frisco has officially approved Unsheltered in Summit Committee's Safe Parking Program will be hosted in the Frisco Bay Marina parking lot this winter. This will double the size of spots the program has been able to offer applicants in recent years.
Jason Connolly/Summit Daily News archive

This spring, the Agape Outpost Church in Breckenridge began a construction project and was unable to host Unsheltered In Summit’s Safe Parking Program any longer. 

The Summit County Sheriff’s office took over for the summer, holding participants in the Summit County Justice Center parking lot with the caveat that folks would have to relocate by Sept. 30.

With September in the past and snow starting to fall, it was announced at the Summit Board of County Commissioners work session Tuesday that the program will move to the Frisco Bay Marina parking lot on Oct. 13.

Along with preserving the program, this relocation will also double the program capacity from 12 spots at the Summit County Justice Center to 26 at the Frisco Bay Marina. 

The unsheltered committee has run the safe parking program for the last few years as housing prices have increased and “van life” has risen in popularity. 

“It is a way to demonstrate respect for our neighbors who struggle economically and, in a small way, help to meet the challenges we face in Summit County around affordable housing,” said Diane Luellen, chair of Unsheltered in Summit. “That’s our job.” 

Applicants fill out paperwork and participate in an in-person interview that requires proof of employment within Summit County. After approval, folks park their car for extended periods of time at the designated parking lot. 

The unsheltered committee then offers them a portable toilet and bear-proof trash containers, as well as information on where they can access Summit County resources, such as programs run by the Family & Intercultural Resource Center.

On Tuesday, Janice Wagner, a part of the Unsheltered in Summit team, listed off jobs of past members. So far, she said the parking program has hosted a Breckenridge Recreation Center lifeguard, a Starbucks barista, a Good Times Adventure Dog Sledding guide, a Saint Anthony’s Hopsital emergency room nurse, ski patrollers from both Breckenridge and Copper Mountain resorts and many more.

Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons said the safe parking program “went seamlessly” over the summer while folks stayed at the Justice Center lot. However, he said the lot is not a safe place for program participants to stay during the winter. 

Because the Justice Center’s parking lot is owned by the county, FitzSimons said the snow is plowed by more robust equipment in the winter. The county uses tractors and heavy machinery, which presents danger to those parked for long periods of time. 

In the long run, however, this transfer may benefit the program. 

Lueller said that the unsheltered committee’s phones have been ringing since August with requests for a spot within the parking program. Some have even requested spots months in advance, a service the committee can’t accommodate. 

“We’ve always had a steady number,” Lueller said, “but recently as the winter season approaches, that’s when people start calling.”

Luellen added that she is excited to expand their space.

“We’ve been looking forward to this for quite some time,” she said. 

Until recently, the program has only been able to help between 10 and 12 people. Right now, 16 spots at the marina have been reserved, 10 of those being Justice Center participants that will transfer to the marina when the time comes. 

Once all the spots are filled, Lueller said many folks have to be turned away. 

“We just have to tell them that there are no spots left,” Lueller said. “And hopefully, some people try to get in with friends, sleep on couches, or some just try to park illegally in dispersed camping areas.”

Lueller added that they are still on the lookout for a second parking lot to permanently expand their program. 

At the Tuesday meeting, options were discussed, including the parking lots of the Frisco Transit Center, the Medical Office Building, Summit County Commons and the Silverthorne Outlets. 

“I think we are really trying to come to the table and figure this out,” Commissioner Elisabeth Lawerence said.

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