By Susie Steimle

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — The City of Oakland has launched a pilot project for safe overnight RV parking that allowed a handful of RV dwellers to move into a lot off San Leandro Street in East Oakland.

“This is a pilot, we want to take risks. The greatest risk is doing nothing to address the housing crisis,” Mayor Libby Schaaf said.

Two more RV parking sites are scheduled to open in the coming months: one on Wood Street, the other on Mandela behind the Home Depot, where a growing encampment is inhibiting the chain store’s ability to do business.

“Every day we must do something to address the frustration and the absolute humanitarian need on these streets,” Schaaf said.

The RV site will operate similar to Oakland’s Community Cabin Program. There is security on site, bathrooms, clean water, and showers will be brought in on a weekly basis. RV owners must be over the age of 18 and be able to drive in their vehicles on their own. Unlike the community cabins there will not be social services on site.

Currently about seven RV’s have parked here. 50 are expected to fill the parking lot.

“Please do not send other RV’s here it is invitation only, I want to make that very clear,” Schaaf said.

The city invited people living in RVs on 85th and Edes Avenue to move here first, that area will then become a no parking zone. Rick Martinez is one of the first people to move into the new safe parking site.

“They’ve got parking here you don’t have to worry about getting towed or anyone breaking in its pretty good,” Martinez said.

“As soon as I saw they don’t allow children I was like dang, broke my heart a bit,” Jeremiah Garcia said.

Garcia lives in an RV on Edes Avenue with his girlfriend Maria Santora, who is five months pregnant and has a 3-year-old son. Santora says she was hoping to move into the RV site when she received the invitation flier two days ago.

“It’s hard out here. Any open resources that can help, I’m open to,” Santora said.

“We are considering a dedicated RV site that would only house children and families or single women,” Schaaf said.

People are allowed to live here for six months, the goal is to transition them into more permanent housing. 55 percent of Tuff Sheds residents have transitioned to more permanent housing.

Schaaf is encouraging other communities to consider an RV parking pilot project of their own.

“We encourage our surrounding neighbors who are grappling with this problem to try this intervention in their own cities,” Schaaf said, “We expect other communities to take care of their own unsheltered in their own communities.”

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