A program in Mountain View to provide parking spaces for unhoused people — the largest safe parking program in Santa Clara County — brought together city officials and community leaders to tout the program and announce the expansion of one of its lots.

Mountain View has 114 safe parking spaces in three city-owned lots and two church lots. On Wednesday, local officials announced that Shoreline Lot B at the Shoreline Amphitheatre is adding 17 safe parking spaces for oversized vehicles, City Manager Kimbra McCarthy said.

Safe parking is a free program that provides temporary safe locations to park for unhoused residents and families who reside in a vehicle.

A poster displayed at the Wednesday news conference highlights key data related to the Safe Parking Program at Shoreline Parking Lot in Mountain View. The site already offers 114 safe RV parking sites, with plans to add 17 more. (Prachi Singh/Bay City News)

The eligibility requirements for the city’s program are families with students in Mountain View school districts, those who live or work in the city, adults aged 55 or older, and people with disabilities.

Essential case management — case managers helping to assess challenges in finding housing and come up with solutions while providing resources — is provided to program participants along with restrooms, water, wash stations and other basic services, McCarthy said.

“It really does take a village,” McCarthy said. “There are a lot of people at the city of Mountain View who have put tireless amount of work and time and effort into this program, and we couldn’t be more proud to support it.”

An innovative approach

The program is run by a local nonprofit, MOVE Mountain View, and is supported by the city and Santa Clara County.

“In 2018, the city launched small safe parking programs at faith-based locations,” said Mayor Alison Hicks. “We developed an innovative safe parking ordinance, one of a handful in California, to facilitate the creation of safe parking locations to preserve the health and safety of residents.”

According to Hicks, the innovative thing about this arrangement is that people can stay at the parking lots all hours of the day rather than having to drive in and out.

“We see families like ourselves just out of pure bad luck, ended up with no housing, and they’ve made the smartest choice possible, which is to live in their vehicle. … So, my thinking is, why not support them in their creativity?”

Amber Stime, MOVE Mountain View

Currently, four sites are in operation in the city with an average of 150-160 individual participants each month. With the expansion of the Shoreline lot, the program would serve up to 175-180 participants, Hicks said. Many of these participants are families and seniors residing in oversized vehicles such as RVs.

“We see families like ourselves just out of pure bad luck, ended up with no housing, and they’ve made the smartest choice possible, which is to live in their vehicle,” said Amber Stime, executive director of MOVE Mountain View. “Some have spent their last penny to make sure they have some dwelling for themselves and for their children. So, my thinking is, why not support them in their creativity?”

According to Stime, it is a service of compassion and kindness that also empowers people to come forward and make a difference.

Part of the solution

According to the county’s Office of Supportive Housing, this collective effort between the county, its cities and nonprofit organizations has enabled the community to move more than 11,000 people from homelessness into permanent housing in Santa Clara County since 2020.

“These bold actions are part of a multi-pronged approach to addressing and preventing homelessness,” Hicks said.

People move to these safe parking spaces until they find better or permanent housing and new people move in, Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian said. This is not the solution, but it is a part of the solution where different community members are taking responsibility for each part of the problem.

“Everyone in this community has said, we’ll take a piece of the problem, we’ll pull others together and it is a partnership,” Simitian said. “So, I think that’s the celebration today.”

Prachi is a Dow Jones News Fund intern at Bay City News. She is a journalism graduate from University of Southern California. She previously worked at Annenberg Media as a Multimedia Journalist and the Managing Editor. Prachi has covered social justice, climate and human interest stories. She is interested in written and visual storytelling.