For Mountain View or any other city trying to create a safe-parking program, the first stop is Santa Barbara.
Since 2004, the Southern California county has successfully coordinated a safe-parking program, which currently takes about 130 lived-in vehicles off the streets, settling them at various parking lots. Today, the Santa Barbara program is considered the model that Mountain View and many other areas are trying to emulate.
That interest has been surging lately, said Cassie Roach, a senior case manager at the nonprofit New Beginnings, which manages Santa Barbara's program. Pretty much every week, her office phone rings with another call from a U.S. city -- usually on the West Coast -- that's trying to start its own safe-parking program. Seattle, San Diego, San Francisco, Portland, Los Angeles -- these are just some of the big cities with officials that have recently reached out to her team, she said.
The story she hears is often the same: homelessness on the rise, and city leaders trying to staunch the blight. That has led her to believe that the infamous housing crisis is reaching new levels of desperation.
"More working poor are falling into vehicular homelessness because housing is ever more expensive," she said. "But they're still able to maintain a vehicle, so that's how they live."
Her top piece of advice? Case management, she said. It's vital for program managers to connect homeless individuals with resources and set trackable goals. While liability insurance may seem like a necessity, she says her program has never once had to use it. Any property damage is usually handled by auto insurance, which clients in the safe-parking program are required to have.
Board members with Mountain View's new Lots of Love program say they've received various forms and guidance from the counterparts in Santa Barbara. Mountain View pastor Brian Leong pointed out that Santa Barbara had some significant advantages, such as more available land and parking lots. Still, the city's expertise was valuable, he said.
"I don't think anyone can expect this to end all parking on the street, but I hope we can make a big enough difference," he said. "This will be very new, so we'll have to work hard to gain trust and make it work."