You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Santa Clara County to explore funding ‘safe parking’ lots for homeless living in cars

Mercury News logo Mercury News 1/14/2020 Thy Vo
a truck is parked on the side of a road: Recreational vehicles and other trucks and cars are lined up the entire length of Crisanto Avenue along Rengstorff Park in Mountain View on July 11, 2017.  (Staff Archives) © Provided by Mercury News Recreational vehicles and other trucks and cars are lined up the entire length of Crisanto Avenue along Rengstorff Park in Mountain View on July 11, 2017. (Staff Archives)

With more and more homeless people sleeping in cars and RVs, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to seek funding to work with local cities and nonprofits to create “safe parking” sites where they can stay overnight and possibly throughout the day.

The number of homeless people who live in their motor vehicles has risen from 8 percent in 2015 and 2017 to 18 percent in 2019, according to survey results in a bi-annual homeless census count report.

At Supervisor Joseph Simitian’s suggestion, the board asked staff to find the money to support safe parking lots countywide and return with a detailed proposal for other ways the county can support local programs at a future meeting.

“(If) we can provide one more option to give them a safe, permitted place to be, where there is case management that can lead them to a better place in their lives, then let’s get some of those obstacles out of the way,” Simitian said.

Cities like San Jose, Morgan Hill and Mountain View already have safe parking programs, and on Monday the Palo Alto City Council called for a pilot program at church parking lots, with the goal of expanding safe parking to private and city-owned lots in the future.

Simitian said overnight programs at church parking lots is a start, but not enough to tackle the estimated 3,600 people living in cars and RVs on the streets countywide, according to the 2019 homeless census. 

“You can have all the services and nonprofit partners…but without sites, there’s not going to be the kind of  larger response I think we’d like to see,” Simitian said.

His proposal also calls for county-funded lots to, ideally, operate 24-hours so RV owners don’t have to find places to re-park their vehicles during the day, a challenge many people cited with overnight programs.

Last year, the county pitched in $287,525 toward a two-year safe parking pilot program in Mountain View run by the nonprofit Move Mountain View. The city also contributed $55,000 to the program.

But last week, Move Mountain View said its insurer will stop coverage of the city’s three safe parking lots that offer spaces for up to 70 overnight RVs. As a result, the city is seeking another provider.

Related Articles

Simitian’s proposal also calls for helping organizations with insurance coverage issues.

Supervisor Dave Cortese suggested the county even consider using its own parking lots for overnight programs, such as those at 70. W. Hedding St. in San Jose and at Elmwood Correctional Facility in Milpitas.

Though she supported the proposal, Supervisor Cindy Chavez said she’s concerned the funding could “reward” cities that exacerbate homeless problems or push RVs into other cities. She pointed to ordinances in Mountain View, East Palo Alto and Berkeley that ban oversize vehicles from parking on some city streets.

“Mountain View restricting RVs on their streets…they did that without having a place for the RVs to go, and I worry other cities will get impacted,” Chavez said. “What I don’t want to do is reward behavior that isn’t aligned with what we’re trying to accomplish.”

AdChoices
AdChoices

More from Mercury News

Mercury News
Mercury News
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon