SLO’s safe parking program off to a slow start

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A recently opened “safe parking” area for local homeless residents at Railroad Square in San Luis Obispo has seen little to no participation since it launched three weeks ago, according to its operator, the Community Action Partnership of SLO County (CAPSLO).

WAITING FOR DEMAND Three weeks after opening, a new safe parking program for homeless residents in SLO—designed after success with a pilot program at the SLO Veteran's Hall (pictured)—is seeing little use. - FILE PHOTO BY KASEY BUBNASH
  • FILE PHOTO BY KASEY BUBNASH
  • WAITING FOR DEMAND Three weeks after opening, a new safe parking program for homeless residents in SLO—designed after success with a pilot program at the SLO Veteran's Hall (pictured)—is seeing little use.
“Most nights it’s nothing,” said Grace McIntosh, deputy director of CAPSLO. “My hope is people will come and avail themselves. It’s about as low barrier and low key as you can get.”

The 20-space lot next to the SLO Railroad Museum has been open since March 16 for the local houseless in SLO County to park and sleep overnight. A porta-potty, hand-washing station, and trash disposal are also available on-site.



McIntosh said that the nonprofit’s early outreach efforts indicate a lack of interest in the service. Other than being a SLO County resident, parkers are required to have a car with a registration that’s no more than six months expired. CAPSLO can assist drivers with car registration if needed, McIntosh said.

“The communication that our outreach workers are getting is that people don’t see any reason why they should leave where they’re currently parked,” she said. “This is still very, very early and we’re still trying to get the word out.”

CAPSLO has a one-year contract with SLO city, which owns the parking lot, to oversee the program launched in response to a growing homelessness crisis amid the pandemic.

Michael Codron, SLO’s community development director, said he’s not too concerned about the lack of early participation, believing that the demand will eventually increase.

“I think it’s consistent with other safe parking programs in terms of how they started relatively slow and built up a clientele that appreciates the service over time,” Codron said. “We intend to increase our outreach to people who are parking in areas of the city overnight.”

In addition to the sanitation services provided at the parking area, and CAPSLO’s optional social services offered at the 40 Prado Homeless Services Center, parkers will also avoid being cited for parking overnight against the municipal code, Codron said.

Yet, despite the pitch, some homeless residents have expressed objections to a heightened police presence near the parking lot and the surveillance cameras on-site.

“Some parkers will prefer to have the video surveillance for their safety, and I understand why some will not. That’s their choice,” Codron said. ∆

—Peter Johnson


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