Making It in the Bay

Palo Alto Church Able to Provide Parking Spaces for Homeless Families After 2-Year Battle

NBC Universal, Inc.

A church in Palo Alto is celebrating a victory, after a two-year struggle to provide safe parking spaces for homeless families.

Those spaces have now been approved.

At the Unitarian Universalist Church in Palo Alto and just about every other church in the Bay Area, parking is a valuable asset and it often goes unused at night.

But that doesn't happen in the area anymore.

"After our daycare and kids are off campus, our parking lot will open for the clients in our shelter,” said Christopher Kan, Safe Parking Program Coordinator

The church campus has more than 100 parking spaces in its lot.

As of last week, some are now designated as safe parking spaces for unhoused people in the community.

They've set up a wash station, a porta potty, there's even access to a shower and they're providing free wi-fi.

But unfortunately, parking program coordinator Christopher Kan said it was a herculean effort to get this all approved.

"How many spaces are we talking about here?” NBC Bay Area's Sergio Quintana asked to Kan.

"Four," Kan responded. "This is four passenger vehicles, not RVs. Most will have one or two people, so the typical capacity of our lot, we will have six people, statistically."

The application process allowed neighbors to object, which is what happened.

A board member at the senior living facility next door asked for a review, which dragged out the process.

She eventually dropped the request after Kan and other church members explained the program.

NBC Bay Area reached out to that board member for comment and have not gotten a response.

"The pushback is fine. Some of it is necessary. It creates conversation. I think it's the outcome that matters more than anything,” said Amber Stime, executive director of Move Mountain View.

Move Mountain View is a homeless services agency that manages seven sites including the Unitarian Church parking lot.

They provide a security patrol, case management and other services for the people using the parking spaces each night.

Stime considers the unitarian lot a hard fought success.

Kan told NBC Bay Area that it shouldn't be so difficult for a church to try to help people.

He hopes the city will make it easier for other churches to share their lots with people who need them.

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