Homeless who live in their cars see 24-hour parking as long overdue

As police pulled over people living in trailers, vans and cars with expired license plates last week, many of the vehicle’s occupants said they would have parked in one of the city’s homeless lots if it had been open 24 hours.

They may get their wish in a few months.

The San Diego City Council last week unanimously agreed to fund 24-hour operations at an 86-space Mission Valley parking lot for homeless people living in vehicles.

San Diego funds three secure parking lots, the provision for homeless people living in vehicles, and the Mission Valley location on Mission Village Drive was the only one that allowed recreational vehicles. The total cost of all three lots in the new fiscal year will be $1.4 million, with $444,000 of Community CARES Development Block Grant Act funds going toward the expanded hours.

In an unrelated move, the Vista City Council on Tuesday discussed creating a 25-space secure parking lot in their city. It would be the second in North County, with an Encinitas lot already operating.

The Mission Valley lot opened in June 2019 and it soon became apparent that RVers were avoiding the lot. An official from Jewish Family Service of San Diegowhich operates the city’s three secure car parks, he said then that only three RVs had used it in the first two weeks.

Jewish Family Services Chief Chris Olsen said last week that the lot averages 70 vehicles, including just eight RVs. The number of RVs increases to about 17 during the winter, he said.

RVers said they didn’t like the parking lot because they had to be out by 7 a.m. every day. and could not return until 6 p.m. With little money to run their vehicles on gas, many chose to park on city streets in violation of the city’s oversized vehicle ordinance that prohibits RVs from parking on public streets between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m.

On Monday, San Diego City Council members heard highlights of a two-year study in the three lots conducted by UC San Diego’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning.

Stacey Livingstone, a UC San Diego doctoral candidate in sociology who worked on the study, told council members that 180 people were interviewed in the study and it was clear that 24-hour secure parking was desirable.

Olsen said the transition to 24-hour service will require adding more security and case workers, and he expected the transition could be completed by the end of the summer.

For some RVers and others who live in vehicles, the transition can’t come fast enough.

The same week that the City Council voted to extend parking hours, the city began to clear encampments and large vehicles on Pacific Highway and Anna Avenue, which runs parallel to the freeway in an industrial area just north of Old Town.

“Did they tow my bus?” JP Palmar said as he walked up to where the 1969 Volkswagen Westfalia van was parked Wednesday morning. “But he had disability plates!”

Palmer said he was away that morning working on an RV he parks very close to SeaWorld, but others on Anna Avenue told him they saw his van being towed. He was upset and didn’t want to talk much, but before going back to the RV he told him that he was 87 years old and had been homeless for eight years.

An officer on the road that morning said about four vehicles were towed, but none would be towed if their owners were present.

This is not always the case.

Eric Barber, 36, sat on a swing on the side of Anna Avenue and recalled a night two weeks ago when he and his wife pulled into a parking lot at Dana Landing. An officer noticed expired tags on the 1995 Mercury Villager van and approached the couple.

Barber said they were told to get out and the truck was towed to a yard.

“It’s too much money,” he said of the $700 impound fee, which was about what he paid for the truck. Barber estimates the cost by last week had risen to $1,000, with more to come if he took it to a garage for repairs so it could pass a smog test.

He knew about the safe places in town, but said his wife never wanted to go to one.

“You have to be in at a certain time and out at a certain time,” she said of her reluctance. “If it wasn’t for that, we’d probably be okay.”

Jerrod Starbird, 48, had been homeless for two years and until Wednesday was living in a trailer attached to a 1981 Chevy Titan RV parked on Anna Avenue.

Jerrod Starbird uses a large section of cardboard to replace the glass in his RV on Anna Avenue where he lived. He drove off the road Wednesday fearing his vehicle would be towed due to incorrect registration.

(Nelvin C. Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

“I’m really worried I’m going to get towed,” he said as he prepared to drive away after receiving a ticket for invalid registration. While he would not be towed that morning, he had been given 72 hours notice to move off the road.

His car was towed a month ago, and Starbird said he just received a notice that it would be auctioned off if he didn’t pay a $1,500 fee. He estimates the outstanding tickets will cost another $1,500.

“I would go to one of the spaces, but I can’t get in because of my registration,” she said of the city’s secure parking lots.

Olsen, however, said there is a spot for him on a Jewish Family Service lot.

“We don’t turn people away if they’re behind on their registration, and we don’t turn people away if their car insurance has lapsed,” he said.

Jewish Family Service will also help people update their registration, he added.

Leon Qiyam Pogue, a 65-year-old Army vet, lives in a Scion and tent on Anna Avenue and said he watched a VW bus and an RV get towed that morning.

“This is people’s lives, man,” he said. “If they had taken that car or impounded the tent, we would have literally been in the street, my wife and I and my dog.

“I spoke to the officer and said, ‘Why are you ruining people’s lives?’ he continued. “And he said, ‘Look, I’ve got a job to do.’ I said, ‘Does it bother you that you’re ruining someone’s life?’ It’s kind of heartless. These people are out here struggling. We’re not committing crimes. We’re struggling.”

Pogue said he would go to a secure parking lot if it was open 24 hours and he was free to come and go during the day, which he has to do twice a week to sell plasma for $120.

Maya Reynolds, 58, has been homeless for three years and owns a 2003 Mercedes SUV and a 1984 Dodge van on Anna Ave. She said she lived in a trailer, but one day a police officer approached her and forced her to leave, only to be impounded for an invalid registration.

Maya Reynolds lives out of her SUV and truck on Anna Avenue in San Diego.

Maya Reynolds has been living out of her SUV and truck on Anna Avenue in San Diego, but she’s afraid they might get towed. He said he didn’t want to go to a secure car park in the city because it’s not open 24 hours.

(Nelvin C. Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

He’s heard about secure parking, but didn’t want to go to one.

“They don’t work, he said. “Everyone has to leave by 7am, I’d take them if they were open 24 hours.”

The UC San Diego study found that most households served by safe parking programs are adults only, but 20 percent are families with children.

Almost half of the customers were over 50, about 28 percent were 60 and over, and 14 percent were under 20.

Nearly 70 percent of participants said they were experiencing homelessness for the first time, and about 44 percent had been homeless for only one month.

Only 15 percent of clients reported having a mental health problem compared to 26 percent of the general homeless population. About 2 percent said they had a substance use disorder compared with 8 percent in the general population.

The program served 850 people from July 1, 2021 to April 30.

From February 1, 2019, to November 30, 2020, the study at UC San Diego found that about 18 percent of clients left the program for permanent or temporary housing. The report says that number is likely low, however, because they didn’t have exit information for nearly 60 percent of the people who left.

Over the course of a semester, nearly a third went into permanent or temporary housing, including shelters, the study found.

During Monday’s meeting, Council member Sean Elo-Rivera asked the council to direct city staff to come back before Sept. 30 with assessments of potential safe parking spaces in all nine municipal districts.

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Homeless who live in their cars see 24-hour parking as long overdue Source link Homeless who live in their cars see 24-hour parking as long overdue

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