Today Monterey County will open a parking lot as a safe place for the homeless to car camp overnight. But it may be a while before anyone uses the space.
Earlier this year, Monterey County began looking for a solution to illegal car camping on Lapis Road. The road runs parallel to Highway 1 just outside Marina. It’s also near agricultural fields. Overnight parking there is illegal. The encampment also became a health and safety problem with leaking vehicles and human waste.
So, Monterey County supervisors approved a Safe Parking Program outside Supervisor Jane Parker’s district office on the former Fort Ord. While it opens Friday, homeless people who want to park outside of the county building first need to undergo a background check and show current car registration. They also must be willing to participate in case management for potential housing.
Elliott Robinson is Director of Social Services. He says the Safe Parking Program is a step forward. But he also says the county is still interested in finding other options.
“It would be ideal to have a larger space. It would be ideal to have a space that was available for more hours during the day,” Robinson says.
That’s because the office is in use and employees need the parking during the day.
“It really is a program that has to operate form 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. We’ve heard from many people who are experiencing homelessness that it’s difficult to move and relocate that early in the morning and we understand that but we have to work with the material we have,” Robinson says.
Scott Bruner says it’s very challenging to move around. He lives in his car near Lapis Road.
“During the day for some of us that don’t have regular employment it’s tough because you’ve gotta find a place to park or some place to go. And without employment there’s not always gas to go from one place to another. I pick up jobs off of Craigslist, moving jobs, auto detailing, things like that, but it’s not regular and it’s not guaranteed,” says Bruner.
Also, Bruner’s car is not registered, so he doesn’t actually qualify for the county’s Safe Parking Program.