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Sacramento To Consider Allowing Homeless People To Live Out Of Their Cars In Designated Lots

Robert Couse-Baker / Flickr

A Sacramento council member wants to make it legal for homeless people to park and live out of their cars in designated parking lots citywide.

A common complaint by unhoused residents is that they not only feel unsafe in their cars, but also that they are unfairly targeted by parking services.

Under a plan by City Councilman Rick Jennings, parking lots around the city would be opened to homeless people and families in vehicles. They would also have access to city services at these locations.

Dennis M. Rogers, who is Jennings’ chief of staff, says homeless people are receiving parking tickets. "There's anecdotal evidence that we saw collected and there's been plenty of reports that indicate that,” he said.

But safety is an even bigger concern. “If there are people that are living in their cars and they don't have a place to sleep at night, and if they continue to live in their cars, what's the likelihood that they're going to run into something that is less than optimal for them? We think it's relatively high," Rogers said.

Under Jennings’ plan, homeless people could take their vehicles to secure parking lots, which would have security guards.

Rogers says a similar program in San Jose took in 60 families. 

Homeless advocates support the idea. “A Safe Parking Program with amenities — including dinner, toilets, showers and case management — will provide a safe and dignified place to sleep and provide help  in looking for permanent housing and other services,” wrote Bob Erlenbusch, executive director of Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness.

Rogers says similar programs in other cities such as San Diego cost anywhere from $100,000 to $400,000, depending on the number of security guards.

Ideally, homeless parking areas would be open by winter, if the city can find a qualified site manager, he said. 

The city council is expected to take up the proposal on Tuesday. 

It's also expected to discuss plans for temporary homeless shelters, including one next to the Pannell Center in South Sacramento, which has had Mayor Darrell Steinberg and the Councilman Larry Carr at odds.

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