SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) -- Nearly 500 homeless people in Santa Clara County live in their cars. Now the city of San Jose is considering designated parking lots to give those folks a place to stay.
Butcher Park in West San Jose is part urban oasis, part RV park and a de facto safety of those living on the edge.
Companion Alida and Ronald's social security and pensions add up to $2,800 a month, hardly enough to pay the sky high rent in area. So they bought an old RV and rough it on the streets of San Jose.
Butcher Park is perfect because it sits along a main road and borders a long stretch of apartments.
Ronald says the apartment renters don't complain as much as homeowners. But they say the key is to not overstay your welcome.
They often up end in the parking lots of big box stores.
Every night in Santa Clara County, 500 people sleep in their cars. To some, it's an eyesore. But to the city, it's an opportunity.
"This is a great population to work with because it's a population that we can help get stable faster," said San Jose project manager Ray Bramson.
San Jose is now looking into converting city-owned land into temporary parking lots for up to 30 car campers, essentially a homeless drive-in with bathrooms, security and case managers. It's part of a pilot program to build two parking lots that could hold up 15 cars each, but they need to get the funding first. It's likely to cost around $400,000.
The city is looking to locate the parking lots where it's not going to blind anyone and not cause too many problems for neighbors, but they also don't want it to be too far away where people would waste time, money and gas to get to where they need to go.
Bramson says car campers can get around much easier and tend to have some income.
"It gives us a chance to bring them in, keep them safe while they're in that transitional period, and then help them get back on their feet," Bramson said.
The plan is in its earliest stages, and both mayoral candidates support it.
"If this helps keep people safe, in a place where they can get access to basic services, we should do it temporarily and move people into permanent housing as quickly as possible," said mayoral candidate Sam Liccardo.
Mayoral candidate Dave Cortese echoed a similar idea. "We should do it some kind of public property, so it's secure, so it's not people hanging out in the neighborhood," he said. "And I would only do that for a very, very short period of time."
Alida says what she needs now is help, not judgement.
"I'm a decent, law abiding person, and I just need a chance to get into an apartment," she said. 'That's all I want is a chance to get into an apartment."
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