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December 6, 2022

Council rejects ‘safe parking’ proposal

City to work with service providers to support program for homeless

The Gilroy City Council rejected the lone bid for a parking program for the homeless Oct. 4, but agreed that it wouldn’t be the end of the discussion.

One of the recommendations of the Unhoused Ad-Hoc Committee, comprised of Councilmembers Dion Bracco, Carol Marques and Fred Tovar, was to establish a “safe parking program,” where those experiencing homelessness could stay temporarily and have access to restrooms, meals, showers and housing services.

A request for proposals circulated from July 27 to Sept. 3, with only South County Compassion Center submitting a response.

In its submittal, the Compassion Center proposed a program that would host up to 15 families, “with the purpose of providing them a safe place to live in their vehicles, or a supplied trailer or tiny home, while they actively work toward making a lasting transition into affordable housing that they can sustain on their own.”

The proposal states that the center would contract with WeHope to provide site managers on site 24/7, as well as provide night security. 

The Compassion Center pointed to its similar program at the Morgan Hill Bible Church, where it has secured housing for more than half of its participants since launching in 2017, according to the proposal.

“The South County Compassion Center management, staff and board are deeply committed to dedicating the necessary time, personnel and resources toward this Safe Parking Program, and have envisioned and championed just such a project in Gilroy for some time, as a way to replicate our successful program in Morgan Hill,” Executive Director Tim Davis wrote in the proposal’s introduction.

But city officials said the center’s proposal was incomplete, namely that it didn’t include a site for the program, as required by the request for proposals.

In addition, the proposal’s estimated operating cost of $511,046 was well over the $50,000 originally planned by city officials, according to Senior Management Analyst Bryce Atkins.

Marques questioned the nearly $203,000 proposed in personnel costs to run the program.

“They have to get real about the cost of their employees,” she said, adding that she was open to the Compassion Center revising their proposal.

Marques noted that the committee reached out to area churches to see if they would open their parking lots to the program, but “no one would take it.”

Councilmember Rebeca Armendariz said the personnel costs are a result of how labor- and service-intensive the job is.

She suggested that instead of outright rejecting the proposal, the city seek grants and other alternative funding to support the program. Armendariz added that she would like for the city to work with various service providers to come up with a solution for the parking program.

On a motion from Bracco, the council unanimously agreed to reject the proposal, but direct city staff to work with the community organizations to identify a site, among other factors.

Atkins said staff will come back to the council with an update at a future meeting.

Erik Chalhoub
Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.

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