Amenities at the County’s only safe parking area for the homeless will soon get a tad better, after Supervisors agreed to buy a larger and more permanent shower trailer for the facility.
Supervisors on Nov. 16 approved spending $83,000 for a portable shower and restroom trailer for its “Kansas Avenue Safe Parking Site,” a vacant plot of land next door to the County Animal Shelter and across the street from the County Honor Farm, where the County allows homeless people living in vehicles to safely stay.
The parking program was started a few months ago in large part to respond to an untenable situation in Los Osos’ Palisades Avenue. That dead end street by the Community Center and Public Library had become overrun with homeless folks parking their various vehicles and camping on the street.
People have long parked overnight on that street and enforcement was lessened during the coronavirus pandemic but it quickly grew to overflow and citizen’s began to complain.
It should be noted that people are not supposed to live or camp on public streets and there are even limits — 72 hours — to how long someone can park any vehicle on public streets. If the vehicle stays past the 3-day limit they can be ticketed by the Sheriff’s
Department and ordered to move.
Seeking to alleviate the situation on Palisades, County officials opened the parking area on Kansas Avenue initially intending to accommodate just 24 vehicles and including a 2-unit shower/restroom trailer.
“As participation increased,” reads a staff report from the County Department of Social Service’s Devin Drake, “and as the only current 24-hour safe parking site within the county, an expansion of the site was deemed necessary.
“The expanded site has space to accommodate over 50 vehicles. Demand on shower and restroom resources has increased and the two-unit shower trailer is having to be serviced five times a week to keep up with demand.”
Maintaining the trailer, plus the rental cost, is apparently too high. “This increased service frequency along with the rental cost of the trailer costs the program an estimated $16,000 a month,” Drake said. “Based on the high costs of rental and services, purchase of a permanent asset is the most fiscally responsible option.”
The current facilities can barely serve 50 people, and Drake said there are 100 people staying there now.
“The current unit is already struggling to meet the needs of the program participants,” Drake said. “The County Administrative Officer requested a larger unit be purchased as soon as possible to meet the health and safety needs of the program participants.”
The County is set on providing restrooms and hot showers to a population of people for whom that’s a luxury, especially with winter fast approaching.
“As winter approaches and weather turns colder,” Drake said, “having multiple hot-water shower units available to program participants will reduce stress regarding basic human needs, and allow capacity for individuals to pursue long-term housing or to address issues surrounding their homelessness with service providers.”
The new shower trailer will have five shower stalls and is accessible for the handicapped. The County will tie into the existing water and sewer lines, which will allow them to “eliminate the need for pumping and servicing costs. As a permanent asset, the new trailer could also be utilized at future sites should the Kansas Avenue Safe Parking Program end, or in case of emergency or natural disaster.”
The $83,000 cost is coming out of the Social Services Department’s budget and the County has to put half the money down before the manufacturer would build it. It’s expected to take up to four months to be delivered, which would put its arrival for sometime towards the end of February or early March.