Santa Clara County Seeks To Open 'Safe' Parking Lots For Homeless

Jennifer Hodges
January 15, 2020 - 1:27 pm
Mountain View Deals With Hundreds Of RVs Parking On City Streets

Matt Bigler/KCBS

The number of homeless people in the South Bay who are living out of their cars is skyrocketing, so Santa Clara County supervisors want to open more lots where people can safely reside for the night.

The Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday to look for funding to work directly with cities and nonprofits to create “safe parking” sites.

“Imagine being a woman over in the middle of that field at 3:30 in the morning trying to get back to your encampment. It’s very sad,” said county resident Scott Largent of one homeless camp. “If we provided a safe place for people to go, park their motorhomes, pitch their tents, provide services, then we’re not gonna have fires, we’re not gonna have people urinating and defecating in bushes.”

The county’s latest homeless census found that the number of people living in a car or RV increased by 146% in just four years, from 2015 to 2019. More than 3,600 people now live out of a vehicle. 

Several cities in the county already operate safe parking programs. Palo Alto approved a new program this week that will utilize church parking lots, with a goal of expanding to city-owned lots in the future.

“If we can provide one more option that would at least give those people a safe, permitted place to be, let’s get some of those obstacles out of the way and make that happen,” said Supervisor Joe Simitian. “If everybody will do their part, if everybody will do a little bit, there’s so much more we can get done. If everybody says ‘well, yeah, it’s a problem and somebody else should take care of it’ we’ll get nowhere.”