SLO may expand program allowing the homeless to sleep in their cars

acornejo@thetribunenews.comSeptember 1, 2013 

A safe parking program designed for homeless people sleeping in their cars in San Luis Obispo has so far placed six people in housing, enrolled 13 and has three on a waiting list.

The San Luis Obispo City Council on Tuesday will consider expanding that program and making it permanent.

The new ordinance would allow for safe parking programs to operate on private property, but only if managed by a social services provider.

The fine print: Such programs must be in association with public assembly sites such as clubs, lodges or churches. Restroom, water and trash facilities must be provided. Vehicles must stay at least 50 feet away from any property in which people reside, unless the city approves an exception.

The program will mirror a pilot program put into place a year ago at the Prado Day Center.

Participants will be required to have current vehicle registration, insurance and a valid driver’s license. They must also enroll in case management and agree to a criminal background check. Drugs and alcohol are prohibited for all people enrolled in the program.

People who can show proof of living in San Luis Obispo County for a minimum of six months will be given priority.

“We’ve proven that with financial support and a little bit of discretion to develop innovative programs, we can make a big difference in the homeless landscape in this county,” said Dee Torres, homeless services coordinator for Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County.

“We need more support,” she added. “Much of our current funding comes with onerous restrictions and/or outrageous documentation and little or no emphasis on how our programs directly impact people’s lives; this one is different, and our success shows it works.”

The safe parking program at Prado Day Center provides five parking spaces. So far, participants have stayed in the program for an average of 4.2 months.

The city’s Human Relations Commission and the Planning Commission have reviewed the ordinance and support it.

The San Luis Obispo City Council will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday at 990 Palm St.

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Follow @a_cornejo on Twitter.

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