Second safe parking site for North County slated to open in Vista in August
A safe parking program is in the works in the city of Vista.
People living in their vehicles will be able to park overnight in a lot on Eucalyptus Avenue between the Vista Public Library and the Vista Civic Center.
Vista City Council member Katie Melendez presented the idea over a year ago. She said different sites were considered for the location of the safe parking site, but, "based on the size and the capacity needed for the lot, as well as what was available, the Civic Center parking lot ended up being the best choice for us and I think it's going to be a great location."
That’s because the parking lot is empty after hours and has access to bathroom facilities.
"There will also be case management services provided for all of the participants so they can get closer to their goal of finding stable housing," Melendez said.
Anthony White II is a Vista resident who once had to live out of his car.
He said he found himself having to move from place to place, choosing "different places, (where) I thought maybe where I could be both undisturbed and undisturbing, because I didn't want to bother people with my presence."
He was a college student trying to find his way after the military when he lost his housing and had to live out of his truck.
"The biggest challenge I faced, besides, ‘How do I get myself out of this situation?' was, 'Where do I sleep at night? Where do I park my car?'" he said.
He’s since been able to get back on his feet, but his lived experience has led him to advocate for safe parking sites for people living out of their cars.
He’s excited to see more safe parking sites around the county.
Jewish Family Service is contracted to run the program. The organization operates five other safe parking sites in San Diego County, including one in Encinitas.
"The lot in Vista will be pretty similar to the one in Encinitas," said Chris Olsen, chief of staff with Jewish Family Service. "It’ll also be 25 spaces. It'll also be during the overnight hours only, and we know from experience in this area that there’s definitely a need. We expect utilization to be high as soon as it's ready to open."
The Encinitas site has been running for over two years, and Olsen says the majority of people using the site are over age 50 and have full-time jobs.
"(They're) people who would never imagine themselves in this situation. But the key to safe parking is (that) we’re able to intervene with services early before someone has to experience living on the street," he said.
Olsen says a third of the participants have gone into permanent housing through the safe parking program, and half have made positive progress.
Funding for the program in Vista came mainly from cannabis tax revenue. The city allocated $250,000 in the budget to fund the program, and San Diego County contributed $65,000.
All of the participants will be screened through Megan's Law and checked for any outstanding warrants before being accepted into the program.
Overnight security will monitor the area for the safety of the participants and the surrounding areas.
The Vista safe parking site is expected to open in August, and will accommodate 25 cars from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m.