The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Office wants Oceano's residents living in parked vehicles to take their homes to the new Safe Parking Site near the county jail, which opened on Aug. 13.
Homeless community members said the parking area at the corner of Kansas and Oklahoma is "barren" and cut off from basic amenities, according to Oceano resident Donna Hampton, who lives in the neighborhood where she said the Sheriff's Office is harassing the homeless individuals who are parked there.
"There is nowhere [for them] to go. There was nothing there. They couldn't even walk for food," Hampton said.
Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer Tony Cipolla presented a contrasting description of the Kansas Avenue site.
- Courtesy Photo By Donna Hampton
- FORCED RELOCATION Homeless people living in their vehicles in Oceano CSD are gearing up to leave for the Safe Parking Site.
"The safe parking location on Kansas Avenue is outfitted with portable bathrooms, a hand-washing station, showers with heated water, a covered dining area with picnic tables, and on-site security," he said in an email to New Times.
SLO County 2nd District Supervisor Bruce Gibson and 4th District Supervisor Lynn Compton worked with the Sheriff's Office to get the parking site up and running.
"The intent of the project is to provide a safe and stable location while residents access services that will put them on a path to permanent housing," Gibson said.
The county's new—and only—safe parking site allows the county out of the predicament it was in after Martin v. Boise, when a judge ruled that the Eighth Amendment prohibits cities from criminalizing homelessness by punishing individuals for sleeping outside when they have nowhere else to go.
"Those parking on the street can be required to comply with county ordinances that prohibit camping or long-term parking on the street," Gibson said.
Cipolla said that the Sheriff's Office is requiring the move for Oceano residents living in vehicles after receiving "community complaints." Such reports, Hampton said, underscore a persistent attitude that sees homelessness as a hindrance.
"They're all human beings, and not all bad," Hampton said.
Sheriff's Office deputies ticketed people living in RVs and other vehicles on Aug. 30. Cipolla said those residents were told they had three options available to them. They could move their vehicle to the parking site, get their disabled vehicle towed to the site free of charge (a change to the initial site restriction allowing working vehicles only); or the Sheriff's Office would tow vehicles to an impound lot if their owners ignored the notice and citation.
Cipolla said that Community Action Team (CAT) deputies, who work exclusively with homeless communities and those with mental health issues; the Transitions-Mental Health Association (THMA); and 5Cities Homeless Coalition would be helping with relocation.
Officials said they plan to set up a safe parking site for SLO's South County, too, but a location has yet to be announced. Δ