Safe Parking Program Set for Unhoused on Palisades

Aerial view of Palisades Avenue, Los Osos

Written by Theresa-Marie Wilson

Theresa-Maria Wilson has been a journalist covering the North Coast and South County area for over 20 years. She is also the founder of Cat Noir CC and is currently working on a novel.

August 12, 2021

A safe parking program goes into effect this week for people living in vehicles on Palisades Ave. in Los Osos. Photo by Dean Sullivan

A new safe parking program is scheduled to begin tomorrow, Aug. 13, to provide an alternative site for unhoused residents who have been living in their vehicles along Palisades Ave. in Los Osos.

The site is located on Kansas Ave. near Highway 1 in SLO and can accommodate a wide variety of vehicles including cars, vans, trucks, and RVs.

“I’m glad we are taking this first step toward addressing the situation with unhoused residents living in their vehicles, but we have much more to do,” District 2 Supervisor Bruce told Estero Bay News. “We need to follow through on this and increase efforts to provide all our residents a path toward permanent housing. That’s going to take long-term commitment.”

Reportedly there are close to 30 vehicles that fill the sides of the street at Palisades with and estimated 40-50 people.

“The purpose of the site is to provide a safe and stable place for people to stay, where services can be provided to address their specific needs and put them on a path to permanent housing,” said Gibson. Beyond access to social services, the site will include showers, toilets, trash collection and access to public transit.

County staff and contracted service providers have started reaching out to those parked on Palisades to let them know that in the near future long-term parking will no longer be allowed. 

Use of the safe parking program is voluntary and participants are encouraged, but not required, to accept appropriate services. Relocation of residents will occur only after extensive outreach efforts, so the reduction in long-term parked vehicles may take some time.

 “I’m not sure exactly how long it will take to relocate these residents — each person has a unique set of circumstances,” Gibson said. “Our outreach is focused on understanding each person and figuring out the best path for them. That will likely take at least a week in most cases.” 

Folks with non-working vehicles would be aided on a case-by-case basis.

The County is coordinating with 5Cities Homeless Coalition and CAPSLO to provide outreach services and offer case management and links to supportive services to address individuals’ needs.

The new program has been initially funded through the SLO County Department of Social Services’ operating budget. The County is considering options for reimbursement through American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) or regional homeless funding, to be discussed by the Board on August 10.

The safe parking site will serve people with working vehicles – currently, there is no restriction on vehicle size.

  • Interested people must arrive during check-in hours (5 p.m. to – 9 p.m. daily) to meet with site security.
  • Once checked in, participants will have access to the site 24 hours/day, 7 days a week, for the duration needed.
  • Participants must sign a contract with a simple code of conduct focused on safety and respect for neighbors.
  • Pets, under appropriate control, will be allowed to stay with participants.
  • The site will not be available for camping in tents or similar structures.

The Facility

The site offers ADA-accessible showers, restrooms, a hand wash station, and dumpsters for participants’ use. 

  • Site security staff will be present during check in hours, and otherwise the site will be monitored for safety by the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office. 
  • There is a bus stop along RTA Route 12 adjacent to the site on Kansas Ave., near the intersection of Highway 1. While currently a call to RTA is required to have Route 12 buses stop there, the County is working with RTA to create a simple, accessible process for safe parking participants to access that transit service.

The site has an initial operating period of three months after which the county will reassess the program. 

The Kansas Ave. site is not the only option that will be offered to residents who need to relocate. 

“Other shelter options are possibly available, although the current COVID-19 outbreak at 40 Prado makes that option challenging right now,” Gibson said on social media. “Each shelter has requirements and sometimes these make certain individuals balk at participating. For instance, some don’t feel comfortable in group settings. The safe parking program has relatively low barriers to participation and we will try to provide the kind of effective services that are found in shelters.”

A similar safe parking program is planned for areas of Oceano in South County. Gibson admits that these programs are not the solution that ends the problem.

“I want to re-emphasize that the new safe parking site is only one, relatively small, first step,” he said. “I’m sure you realize that this program won’t eliminate homelessness in Los Osos, much less countywide. Homelessness will not simply disappear, but we are moving now to reclaim the public spaces on Palisades, protect the public’s health and safety, and support unhoused residents on their path to permanent housing.”

A code enforcement officer will attend the Los Osos Community Advisory Council on August 26 and give a presentation regarding code enforcement and the community. 

The Board of Supervisors is expected to talk next steps at the meeting on Aug. 10, post press time.

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