Miguel Contreras refurbishes apartments for a living, but opts to pay $800 a month to rent a camper on the street near a park in Mountain View. It’s not permanent he says, because there's no running water.
“I was looking around in a lot of places but they were just too expensive,” Contreras said.
In Mountain View, and some other cities, people like him can be told to move from their spot after 72 hours.
“I just want to save money, maybe by 25 I [can] already own my own house,” he said.
Pastor Brian Leong and four other faith leaders are now working to secure safe parking spots at churches for a program they call Lots of Love. It’s modeled after a similar program in Santa Barbara.
The goal is to give those living in cars or RVs an overnight spot to park, along with access to the church’s bathrooms.
“There are 300 vehicles being lived in here in the city,” said Leong, co-founder of Move Mountain View. “It's a huge problem.
“It's not like what you might think of typically as homeless. It's really middle income people with jobs. I think 70 percent of people surveyed were employed,” he said.
Lots of Love is a two-year pilot program set to begin on July 2. Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian helped launch it. Last week, the supervisors approved $287,000 to pay for it through 2020.
People will have to apply to be placed in a church parking lot space.
“Just 40 parking spaces means there are a hundred people who aren't out there on the street. Safer for them. Puts them in touch with the help they need,” Simitian said. “Frankly, I think it's going to be well received by the neighborhoods who are growing a little tired of folks being parked out in front of their homes and businesses."
St. Timothy's Episcopal Church in Mountain View has already signed on to take four families living out of their cars. The project organizers are looking for two more churches to join in.
“We don't have showers here, so that would be a good opportunity for us," Contreras said.
Santa Clara County is also funding a project in San Jose through Amigos de Guadalupe. The hope is San Jose and Mountain View will each have 40 available spots by 2020.