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Homeless Safe Parking Program Gets the Green Light

Inyo-Mono Advocates for Community Action (IMACA) is preparing to establish and operate a Safe Parking Project at the Church of the Nazarene in Bishop.

On January 22, 2020, the Inyo County Planning Commission approved a conditional use permit, which allows up to fifteen vehicles to park at the church parking lot. County documents state that an IMACA Case Manager will be available to respond to any emergencies that occur on the property. The Parking area will also be monitored by IMACA staff nightly.

The homeless individuals residing in their cars will have access to the restroom facilities at the Church of the Nazarene, and will only be allowed to park at the property from 7 pm to 7 am.

There are concerns that the homeless people who have access to the bathroom may cause problems down the line. These concerns community members have include vandalism, drug use, and theft of property at the church. Because of problems that could occur at the site, IMACA is providing liability insurance that covers theft, vandalism, damage and other losses attributable to the homeless staying at the church.

Additionally, if the Church of the Nazarene decides that the IMACA Safe Parking Program has violated the purpose of the building in the confines of the community, they will be able to terminate the agreement with IMACA. However, if the church decides they want to cancel the arrangement for reasons other than a breach of contract, IMACA will require the church to provide a partial or full reimbursement for any building improvements that benefit the congregation.

Other concerns from Bishop residents include the proximity to the Bishop FFA School Farm, which sits about 100 yards to the Southeast of the church. Some believe the homeless people residing in the parking lot may cause a safety issue for young students.

The parking program may end up being just a test run. Documents from IMACA state the trial period for this program may not exceed one year in time. If deemed successful, the agreement could be extended for a time period acceptable to both the Church of the Nazarene and IMACA.

Funding from this program comes from three sources:

  1. The Homelessness emergency Aid Program (HEAP) in the for of a block grant from the California Business and Consumers Agency.
  2. A grant awarded to IMACA by the California Department of Housing and Community Development.
  3. An Emergency Solutions Grant from the California Department of Housing and Community Development.

The organization’s hope is that the program will help homeless people transition into permanent housing, which the community action group says could take approximately two years or less to happen.

IMACA is taking a page out of the New Beginnings Counseling Center in Santa Barbara’s playbook, which has already implemented a Safe Parking Program for the homeless. The program has existed since 2004, and allows for up to 150 parking spaces where people experiencing homelessness can sleep.

Similar programs exist in Seattle, WA, Monterey, CA and San Diego, CA.

According to the University of Southern California’s Homelessness Policy Research Institute, the success of the Safe Parking Programs vary.

“In Monterey, the smallest of all programs studied, 50 out of the 75 program participants have been housed since 2014. The Santa Barbara program has served over 8,800 people since 2004 and cited placing roughly 432 (5%) into housing. In San Diego, 1,725 program participants have obtained housing since 2010, roughly 65%. Seattle cited placing 256 individuals in housing since 2012. Notably, the program was only able to place 40 people into housing in 2016 compared to 119 in 2015.”

For those who wish to file an appeal relating to the issued conditional use permit that will allow 15 people experiencing homelessness to park at the Church of the Nazarene, the deadline to do so is February 5, 2020. If an individual wants to file a protest, one must contact the Clerk of the Board’s Office. The cost is $300 and is non-refundable.

According to the Inyo County Website, “Valid notices of appeal will be forwarded to Inyo County Planning Department staff, who will present the appeal during a public hearing scheduled at the convenience of the Board of the Supervisors. The Board of Supervisors, at the conclusion of the hearing on any appeal filed…may sustain, modify or overrule the action of the planning director or Planning Commission in the matter. The final order of the Board of Supervisors on any such appeal shall be effective forthwith.”

For more information, call the Inyo County Board of Supervisors Office at (760) 878-0373.