San Luis Obispo’s attempt at allowing homeless people to sleep overnight in their vehicles in a safe and regulated environment passed a crucial milestone on Sept. 3, when the City Council unanimously approved an ordinance that could allow for the expansion of a “safe parking program.”
The ordinance could allow licensed social services providers to get in on the same type of services being offered at the Prado Day Center by the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County.
That pilot program has been ongoing—and seemingly successful—at the center since March 2012; it allows a maximum of five vehicles. Nineteen people have participated in the program, with an average stay of four months. There are currently two on the waiting list, according to CAPSLO Homeless Services Coordinator Dee Torres.
Though it’s not a city program, San Luis Obispo is responsible for defining which properties and providers meet the program requirements.
Any participation in such a program doesn’t come without strings, however. Enrollees would have to take part in CAPSLO services, such as case management, with preference given to individuals with local ties. They’d also have to submit to a background check and drug screening.
But not just anyone can offer a place to sleep.
Though no group has yet stepped up, people and groups providing the extended parking program would have to meet certain requirements to receive a use permit. For instance, they must be licensed social services providers, the property must have a buffer of at least 50 feet from neighboring residences, they must be located near public transit, and they must provide restroom and trash facilities.
In other words, it’s not going to be easy to provide the service.
According to Community Development Director Derek Johnson, there are four organizations known to the city that fit the requirements, other than CAPSLO: ECHO, Transitions Mental Health, Central Coast Link, and the county itself.
None of those has expressed any interest thus far, he said.
“It’s a lot of work,” Torres noted.
A few members of the audience said they’re currently using the pilot program at Prado, the program has already made a major difference in their lives, and the city should allow it to grow.
“This has allowed me the opportunity to get back on my feet. It has allowed me to get my self respect back,” said resident Lynn Hynson.
“For many people, this is the only way to get to that next step,” Councilman John Ashbaugh said. “I do think this ordinance is badly needed.”