People who sleep in their vehicles in San Luis Obispo may have more sanctioned places to do so, if a pilot program becomes the model for a citywide ordinance.
The new ordinance, which would allow qualifying organizations to create additional places for homeless to park overnight in San Luis Obispo, will have its public unveiling today.
The Safe Parking pilot program was put into place a year ago at the Prado Day Center after increased enforcement by police left many homeless 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 when it ticketed them. The city has since established clearer rules on where people can and cannot park overnight.
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The city’s Human Relations Commission tonight will examine a draft ordinance intended to expand the program. The City Council will have the final say in August.
The San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors recently announced support for the program — saying that it will fill a need in services for the homeless in the city.
The ordinance will set the rules for how and where the parking program will operate, including mandated case management, criminal background checks and prohibition of drugs or alcohol for all people enrolled in the program. Participants will be required to have current vehicle registration, insurance and a valid driver’s license.
People who can show proof of living in San Luis Obispo County for a minimum of six months will be given priority.
The Chamber of Commerce is recommending that time limits for participation be included in the ordinance.
Safe parking areas will be allowed on private property but are required to be managed by a licensed social service provider such as the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County.
Tyler Corey, the city’s housing programs manager, said case managers are an imperative part of the program because they understand homeless issues and can partner with willing property owners to manage the program.
The city would not run the programs, he said.
Organizations or businesses wanting to host a safe-parking site — such as local churches — may have to maintain a 50-foot buffer between their program and any residential property lines. They would also have to ensure appropriate lighting, restroom and trash facilities.
The city’s Planning Commission will ultimately decide where safe parking programs can be located. A use permit will be required for all proposed safe parking sites.
The city’s Planning Commission will be asked to approve the ordinance June 26.
Dee Torres, the homeless services coordinator for CAPSLO, said she supports the ordinance and would work with the city if there is a demonstrated need to expand it in the future.
However, Torres cautioned that costs will increase if the program now at Prado Day Center, which provides five parking spaces for homeless people or families living in their vehicles, is duplicated somewhere else.
Torres said the program is run by using existing staff and pooling resources with the center to make it cost effective.
“We are grateful to receive a generous amount of support from the city, county and private donors, but each year the need increases and just as many funding streams decrease,” Torres said. “From my perspective, it is imperative that we support and fund our core homeless services before we can responsibly move to increase or add services.”
The Human Relations Commission, an advisory body to the City Council, will meet at 5 p.m. Wednesday in the City Council Chambers, 990 Palm St.