SLO's safe parking program for homeless to be expanded

New ordinance approved by City Council on Tuesday will allow safe parking spots on private property and make the program permanent

acornejo@thetribunenews.comSeptember 4, 2013 

The Prado Day Center is on Prado Road in San Luis Obispo.


Calvin Thompson is one of dozens of people forced to sleep in his car each night because he is homeless.

Thompson has been enrolled in San Luis Obispo’s safe parking program for three months — while working with a case manager to find transitional housing.

On Tuesday night, the San Luis Obispo City Council voted unanimously to expand the program he is enrolled in and make it permanent.

“I am very grateful for services offered through CAPSLO,” Thompson said, referring to the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County. “And I appreciate the foresight of the city in creating the safe parking program. I had to jump through hoops to get in the program in the first place.”

The safe parking program has so far placed six people in housing, enrolled 13 and has three on a waiting list.

The pilot program was put into place in March 2012 at the Prado Day Center after increased enforcement by police left many homeless people camping on the streets with no place to go.

Last year, the city settled a lawsuit that accused it of violating the rights of people to sleep in their cars by ticketing them. The city has since established clearer rules on where people can and cannot park overnight.

The existing safe parking program, operated by CAPSLO, provides five parking spaces for homeless people living in their vehicles at the Prado Day Center. The parking lot is behind a locked gate and monitored by video surveillance. A portable toilet on the grounds is available for those staying there.

The effort was the first of its kind in San Luis Obispo, but such programs have long been used in other communities such as Santa Barbara to help reduce the number of people sleeping in their cars on city streets.

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

It will also allow CAPSLO to apply for additional parking spots at the Prado Day Center site, said Tyler Corey, the city's housing programs manager.

Additional safe parking programs must be in association with public assembly sites such as clubs, lodges or churches when in residential areas of the city.

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.

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.

The ordinance will come back to the council for a second reading on Oct. 1. It will go into effect 30 days after that.

“You can’t judge a book by its cover,” Thompson said. “There are a lot of people who are homeless in the community. There are a few selfish and self-centered people that can cause a problem, but they are the vast minority. There are a lot of us working to get help.”

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.

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