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March 31, 2020

County moves to expand parking for homeless

‘Safe parking’ add help from social workers for people without housing

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors gave unanimous support to a proposal to expand efforts to make “safe parking” programs more feasible and effective for people without housing.

In the past five years, the number of Santa Clara County residents living in cars and recreational vehicles has increased significantly, according to the county. In the latest Santa Clara County Homeless Census, 18 percent of unhoused residents were found to be living in their vehicles, up from 8 percent in 2015 and 2017.                                                                                                                                While not a long-term solution, safe parking allows residents to have stability in where they sleep each night while they seek permanent housing. Ideally, safe parking programs in the county would allow these “vehicle residents” a safe and designated place to work while pairing them with case management with a county social worker.

“Obviously,” said Supervisor Joe Simitian in a statement, “identifying a sufficient number of sites and spaces is the necessary first step, and that’s been a struggle. My office and I are hoping to spearhead a coordinated effort to identify more sites this spring in Mountain View and Palo Alto, two cities who have been working to address this challenge.”

Morgan Hill allows some overnight parking by individuals in RVs. Gilroy does not. The county said it has already committed over $750,000 in funding for safe parking programs, helping to support case management to help households obtain services and stable housing, program administration and the identification of new lots.

“It’s become increasingly clear that some of these programs would benefit from additional county support and engagement,” said Simitian. “Cities have faced a number of barriers to opening safe parking programs, including finding appropriate sites, the lack of insurance for non-profit partners and challenges in establishing 24-hour lots. We need to identify more sites, find a way to keep them open 24/7 and connect local non-profits with the insurance coverage they need to get the job done.”

Simitian’s proposal directs the county to work with local municipalities, non-profits and community members to support successful safe parking programs in the following ways:

  • Explore leasing 24-hour parking lots at a very low or no cost
  • Offer assistance in a multi-pronged effort to find appropriate sites
  • Report on funding needs to adequately scale and revise the programs to meet the need

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