More people are finding themselves turning to RVs as an affordable living situation. Some cities are approving bans on overnight RV parking, citing instances of improper waste disposal or crime and behavior problems. Others, such as Berkeley, which has a parking ban, are now in the early stages of considering overnight parking lots for RVs. 

Chidester said the city is hoping to meet with representatives from Project WeHope, an East Palo Alto nonprofit. It has created a pilot program designed to provide a safe parking lot for RV residents. In May, the city of East Palo Alto granted Project WeHope use of one of its municipal parking lots and $300,000 to launch a program that offers designated space for up to 20 local RV dwellers overnight. 

“We’ve seen a big change in everything,” said Project WeHope Associate Director Alicia Garcia. “The city is looking better and families are now in a safe environment.” 

The project started at about the time East Palo Alto was implementing a citywide ban on overnight street parking. Garcia said a large part of the efforts to launch the program were spent getting to know the needs of the people living in the RVs in the area. 

This resulted in the use of a lot, which is open between the hours of 7:30 p.m. and 7 a.m. Security guards monitor the space throughout the night and people have access to portable showers, restrooms and laundry services. During the day, the RVs must be relocated to other areas on the street or at workplaces, which is permitted by the city. The goal is to have people stay no longer than four months and transition into a more stable living situation, said Garcia. 

In order to park at the lot, RV residents must agree to work with a case manager from Project WeHope in an effort to find housing. Additionally other social service agencies come to the site to offer programs for residents to utilize. 

After just six months, 13 families who used the program were able to move out of their RVs and into permanent housing, according to Garcia. One of the reasons she says this pilot is working is it creates a safe place for people to go and makes it easier to provide services in a concentrated location. 

She said the nonprofit is planning to ask East Palo Alto City Council to extend the program for another year. 

“If it seems like it might be a good fit here, we’d consider it,” Chidester said.

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