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Guest opinion: A comprehensive approach to addressing homelessness

 

Our city struggles with many regional challenges, and homelessness is among the most complex and difficult to solve. Over the past three years, the Mountain View City Council has taken a compassionate approach, implementing a three-pronged strategy to address this issue: providing emergency assistance to the unstably housed in the short term, increasing housing supply in the long term, and responding to public health and safety concerns through outreach and enforcement.

We have succeeded in housing 116 Mountain View-affiliated households, with another 44 households on their way to housing. Additionally, in partnership with the county and nonprofit organizations like the Community Services Agency (CSA), the council has spent more than $2.5 million to offer important basic human services and outreach to residents living in vehicles. You can learn more about these services and other related programs at mountainview.gov/homeless.

Unfortunately, despite our efforts, the needle has not moved in the number of unstably housed individuals, including those living in vehicles. The city actually experienced an increase from an estimated 150 vehicles in February 2017 to approximately 290 vehicles in December 2018. Those living in vehicles are as diverse as those living in fixed housing. Some have lived in Mountain View before losing housing, some work here, some have other affiliations and some are new to the area. Some do not identify themselves as homeless and consider it an interim housing solution, declining assistance from CSA and city programs.

Moreover, the city increasingly struggles with genuine public health and safety concerns. Both residents living in vehicles and those in fixed housing are impacted when older vehicles leak sewage or when waste is illegally dumped. Households in vehicles are particularly vulnerable to predatory and criminal activity. Bicyclists and other users of public rights of way have reported visibility hazards and other traffic safety concerns. Permanent residency on city streets is neither desirable nor sustainable, although we recognize that many do not have a viable alternative.

On March 19, the council provided direction to city staff to address these challenges comprehensively and pragmatically. The city will continue to fund $1 million for programs to prevent homelessness, rehouse those who fall into homelessness, and provide other basic human services. Over the next few months, staff will also develop ordinances intended to expand the safe parking program in Mountain View (potentially doubling the current number across the entire county); explore ways to make it easier for private lot owners interested in providing safe parking to do so; and increase enforcement efforts, including oversized vehicle parking prohibitions, to address public health and safety concerns.

Mountain View cannot solve this issue on its own. We need a regional approach, with all cities providing shelter and safe parking opportunities, offering services and programs, and increasing housing supply. The county should take leadership in convening the various entities to come up with new solutions. We also support Gov. Gavin Newsom's proposal for $500 million in increased funding for the state of California's Homeless Emergency Aid Program.

Finally, we call upon all residents, businesses, and the faith community to participate in these efforts to assist the unstably housed by volunteering at or donating to CSA, Hope's Corner, and the homeless shelter at Trinity Church, or by identifying or providing safe parking lots. Only by working together will we be able to move the needle.

Margaret Abe-Koga is the vice mayor of Mountain View and Lucas Ramirez is a fellow City Council member.

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Comments

37 people like this
Posted by Billy Bob
a resident of Bailey Park
on Apr 11, 2019 at 2:19 pm

Thank you Mountain View city council for more than doubling the RV population and for increasing the crime and lowering the quality of life in our city . We will take note next election. They say they are leaders they are sheep only after Berkeley and Santa Barbra passed RV bans did Mountain View get on board. 18 months to take effect are you kidding me.


29 people like this
Posted by Time for change
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 11, 2019 at 4:44 pm

I appreciate the well thought out opinion piece that tries to take a measured approach instead of the knee jerk reactionary responses on both sides of the issue, but we’re seeing the limits of trying to be humane but not having any plan to resolve it. We realize this RV problem in particular can’t go much longer and we’re almost exactly where we were before.

The elephant in the room in this article is that buying time like we’ve done does not help if you’re not using that time to fix the problem because from the start it was clear the voters won’t let RVs stay for long so the question always was can you do something quickly to resolve it. The answer we know see is “no”.

So now we’re out of time and it’s clear we need the RVs gone right away and waiting another year like you’ve proposed isn’t viable. If they stay next year me and the other residents will have to vote for someone else. Not became of the homeless problem but because you wore down our patience and kindness and we’re pretty much where we started.

It’s not your fault for trying and failing entirely, because it can’t be fixed by Mountain View alone. If we had cheap RV parks and people actually would use them (apparently, they won’t we now know) the people next door will just start their cars or RVs and drive down here.

Good political reps know what their people want and we’ve pretty clear that waiting 12 to 18 months more is unacceptable. Read the tea leaves.


23 people like this
Posted by Issue permits to stop influx
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Apr 11, 2019 at 4:52 pm

Issue permits to stop influx is a registered user.

Kudos to the council for taking action, however as is usually the case with the City, needs to move much faster, they need to stop the influx of vehicles.

Proposal: As a first step (now) require any RV parked on city streets to apply for a permit. Permits would be available now through an established deadline (June 30 for example). After the deadline any RV without a permit needs to leave, if they do not have a permit it would indicate either they refused to apply for one, or they arrived here after the deadline. This process would stop the influx. If they do not stop the inflow the city will be dealing with hundreds more vehicles 18 months from now.


2 people like this
Posted by Won't Matter
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 12, 2019 at 10:15 am

18 months from now they will all be illegal, no matter how many come in before that.


4 people like this
Posted by Sophie Mutter
a resident of The Crossings
on Apr 12, 2019 at 1:28 pm

Sophie Mutter is a registered user.

Even places with most liberal influences like Berkeley bans the RV. Why Mountain View city council wants to wait for 18 months? Do you expect Mountain View becomes a dumping ground of RVs from all over the Bay Area?


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