Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Safe Parking Request

I write to you with the Thursday homeless meeting in mind, the reasonable use of Lot D at the Fairgrounds, covering 30 - 40 Parkers, for the cost of cleaning the toilets and showers, that apparently there will be Parkers who won’t have a safe legal place to spend the night.

You’ll likely remember D was the site of Safe Park the winter of ’14, for which CC and the county were lauded by the Chron and LA Times.

There has been nothing preventing their return, except Shirlee, who says it is too far from downtown and too expensive.  There are many homeless people who have jobs or income that make the drive an easy one compared to sleeping at a curb.  It is closer to downtown than the Methodist Church on Stony Point or the Synagogue.  

It was expensive in ’14 because use was conditioned on hiring a 12-hour attendant and a drive-through guard.  In the three months there was no infraction of the rules.  I was there several times in the evening, talking to the attendant, who told me she was glad for the job, but there was no need for her or the guard, and Parkers who were very grateful for the place to be safe.

One was a woman who might have been the model for Rockwell’s Thanksgiving grandmother.  She had a degree in history and worked for more than 40 years as a nursery school teacher.  I asked how she happened to be homeless.  “Until 3 years ago, my future was secure, all in order.  Then it exploded.”  I didn’t ask what exploded but it’s easy to make intelligent guesses.  “You have no idea how blessed it is to have a place to take a pee and wash my face in warm water before I go to sleep."  

Commonly, 2 or 3 Parkers would stick their heads in the office and tell the attendant she didn’t need to have Fairground staff come clean the toilets and showers.  They’d done it.

So it’s not too far and not expensive.  No one pays anything for use of the facility.  The Fair uses it marginally for horseman-parking during the fair and that can be shifted.  The only cost would be cleaning.  I’m confident a small team of regular Parker volunteers could be asked to clean before they leave, or they could be paid minimum wage.
Arguments that this location isn't a safe and useful resource are absolutely bogus, and failure to make use of Lot D is criminal if you know stories of curb-Parkers who have been harassed or accosted by the SR police. 
A mild-mannered man, I know, (never been in trouble with the law) and corresponded with in San Quentin was incarcerated because of an altercation with SR police that began when they rapped on his window, shined a light in his face and told him to move.  He worked as a welder fabricating stainless tanks, carried PTSD from Viet Nam, was sleeping in his truck because he and his girlfriend had a disagreement.  After being boosted by the police, and given a $265 fine, his life spiraled out of control and violating a condition of his first arrest lead to SQ.

I remember there was faultless Safe Parking at the Fairgrounds Lot D, the winter of ’14 with toilets and showers.  Virtually no cost to the county.  Is there a reason Safe Park can’t return?

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