It’s disappointing, but in no way surprising, that homeless people living out of their cars and RVs have been slow to take advantage of “safe parking” programs in Arroyo Grande and San Luis Obispo.
It’s especially ironic that in San Luis Obispo, a number of people continue to park overnight along Prado Road, while five “safe parking” spaces at the Prado Day Center are proving hard to fill — even though 24 people had expressed interest when the program was proposed several months ago.
From the outset, we were concerned that the city of San Luis Obispo had set the bar too high by requiring participants to participate in a case-management program.
As Tribune reporter AnnMarie Cornejo recently explained, that program requires clients to set aside a portion of their incomes for housing, and that’s been a big stumbling block for some potential participants.
We agree that it would be ideal for safe parking participants to take part in counseling and other services provided through case management. But we believe the first step is to offer a reasonable alternative to illegally “camping” on city streets, where there are no sanitation facilities and little oversight.
It’s better for everyone if supervised, secure, off-street parking is provided, but it defeats the purpose of a safe parking program if requirements are so stringent that only a handful of people apply.
That appears to be what’s happening here.
We aren’t suggesting that there should be no screening or regulations.
By all means, require participants to register for the program and to obey rules — no weapons, no illegal drugs or alcohol, no dumping of trash, no outdoor cooking, no loud music, no barking dogs, etc.
Also, make it clear to participants that case-management services are available.
The city of Santa Barbara, for example, requires participants to sign a waiver that — among other things — states that homeless outreach coordinators “can or may provide assistance to help me obtain my desired goals of becoming self-sufficient.”
That low-key “can or may” approach appears to be working. Santa Barbara offers more than 100 safe parking spaces at various locations throughout the city, and has no problem filling them. Also, a majority of clients do take advantage of case-management services.
As we’ve said many times, the communities of San Luis Obispo and Arroyo Grande are to be commended for their willingness to allow some form of safe parking.
We fear, though, that if the spots remain unfilled, the pilot projects will be pronounced failures before they’ve had a fair shot, and other local communities will be reluctant to even try.
To avoid that, we strongly urge officials not to abandon the programs prematurely, particularly in San Luis Obispo where the need is so great.
Before giving up, review the requirements and craft a compromise — one that encourages participants to seek help in finding permanent housing, but without the rigid requirements that are keeping people away.
Editorials are the opinion of The Tribune.