PALO ALTO (KPIX 5) — Randolph Allen Parker has lived in his recreational vehicle for three years, but he said finding a place to park it in East Palo Alto could be challenging.
“If they don’t know you it’s an instant fear, and it’s an instant speculation,” Parker said.
Like so many RV owners, Parker felt like he didn’t have a place to park without being asked to move or causing some type of controversy eventually. Now, that’s all about to change for Parker and others in similar situations.
Instead of banning RVs off the streets altogether, East Palo Alto city leaders decided to do something that no other Silicon Valley city has done before. City leaders and the nonprofit organization Project WeWork joined together to create the RV Safe Parking Pilot Program.
It takes RV owners off the streets and allows them to park in a parking lot on Bay Road overnight between 7 p.m. and 7:30 a.m. The lot has a security guard, showers, bathrooms and connects participants with a case manager to help them find sustainable housing.
The property only allows up to 16 RVs at a time and there’s already a wait list of about three dozen.
“Our goal is to turn families every few months so that hopefully we’ll be able to help all the families,” said WeWork Associate Director Alicia Garcia. She said the program also cuts the fears that many of the RV owners have when living out on the streets since they are often times the target of crime.
“So here, they’re able to be in a safe place,” she said.
City leaders recently passed a ban on overnight parking for oversize vehicles; Parker said the protection from this program gives him one less thing to worry about living on the streets.
“Too good to be true,” he said. “It’s a warm beacon of light on dark, stormy times.”
Garcia believes they’ll be able to help Parker beyond just a safe place to park at night.
“He’s got definitely the right spirit and the right attitude to get right back on his feet,” Garcia said.
The program costs nearly $500,000, with the city paying for most of it.