SCV homeless experts look into potential overnight parking options

FILE PHOTO Homeless task force members receive training ahead of the 2020 homeless count on Jan. 21. Tammy Murga/ The Signal
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Santa Clarita homeless task force members are exploring options to start a local overnight parking program akin to those in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. 

During their monthly meeting Thursday, Peggy Edwards, chair of the task force’s Affordable Housing Committee and president of the Bridge to Home board of directors, said she and her team, which also includes students from College of the Canyons, are researching potential locations and avenues for funding, with a goal of having two parking lots open for homeless individuals to park safely at night. 

“It is very much in the research stages. The biggest thing is finding some sites, finding people that are willing to let us use their parking lots and that they have access to restrooms overnight,” she said. “Our goal is to open two in a place where we could have access to showers and bathrooms overnight.” 

Currently, the committee has eyed 15 possible locations, which could include some churches, but “nothing official” as of yet, she said. 

The SCV-based program could operate much like the New Beginning’s Safe Parking program in Santa Barbara and Goleta, which has operated since 2004 in cooperation with numerous churches, governmental and nonprofit agencies, and businesses. The program offers 134 spaces across 24 parking lots and also connects “the chronically homeless to shelters and services that will get them off the streets and into safer environments,” as well as with food, job and resume preparation, and case management services, according to the program’s website. 

“This program would not only provide a safe place for people, but link them with case management services and meals,” said Edwards, adding that it would also need security guard services. “Safety is one of the primary concerns for people on the street.” 

Those interested would have to reserve a parking space and acknowledge that “somebody is out to watch over them,” she added. 

Edwards said she plans to work with Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputies to get a better sense of how many individuals sleep in their vehicles. 

Should the committee come up with a proposal, one that would also look at which organization will manage the program, they would then seek a waiver to the city’s current ordinance that prevents the homeless from sitting on sidewalks or sleeping in parked vehicles on public places. 

In late June 2018, the City Council unanimously approved a municipal code amendment geared toward preventing homeless people from “living” in public places. 

“The city is empowered to enact rules to ensure that members of the public use city parks, facilities, open spaces, and other public places in a manner that is consistent with the purposes of these places and that promotes the public’s common benefit,” reads the ordinance. 

City officials at the time said the amendment, which was made to include new city structures, was part of an effort to connect the homeless to resources for housing. 

Edwards said she is hopeful the city will support the overnight parking initiative and is looking into possible funding options that would cover security services, portable showers and utilities. 

Among those areas of funding the committee may consider is recent grant funding the city received last month in the amount of $126,000 in addition to the $300,000 in Measure H dollars it obtained last year for a homeless coordinator and property acquisition for interim family housing. The newly awarded funds would go toward innovating solutions aimed at assisting the homeless, according to Jerrid McKenna, assistant to the city manager. SCV homeless experts look into potential overnight parking options 

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