An unfortunate thing is happening in the Bay Area, RVs are starting to become the home of last resort for some people. Bay Area cities have seen an increase in the number of RVs out in the streets and this has caused them to seek a solution to this problem. Many Bay Area cities are starting to realize that parking tickets alone will not solve the issues. According to the Mercury News, officials are having a hard time coping with the growing number of people in RVs seeking a safe, permanent place for the only homes they can afford. In Mountain View for example, the city averages more than three complaints a day about RV communities. Tom Myers, executive director of Community Services Agency of Mountain View, states,
We’ve never seen it like this. We have to be prepared that this will be the new normal for us. It’s a crisis.
The Bay Area has some of the highest median incomes in the nation, yet the homeless population in the area has continued to grow. According to a federal census this year, the number of residents in Alameda County lacking permanent shelter jumped almost 40 percent since 2015 and Santa Clara County saw a 13 percent increase. The median cost of rent is pushing more residents into alternative forms of housing in the area, because a two-bedroom apartment in places such as San Jose is around $2,500 and $2,200 in Oakland. According to Alicia Garcia, associate director of the nonprofit Project WeHOPE serving homeless clients in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, most RV residents work, including some with high-paying tech jobs who have chosen to downsize. However, other RV residents are working poor people that have been priced out of apartments and many of them can’t afford the rent at RV or mobile home parks.
One solution that Bay Area cities can use is something that Santa Barbara began over a decade ago. Santa Barbara began a different approach to deal with the RVs with a safe parking program. The New Beginnings Safe Parking Program in Santa Barbara is a nonprofit that contracts spaces in parking lots in places such as churches, private businesses and government facilities for RV residents to apply for a free parking permit, which allows them to stay as long as they wish. According to Cassie Roach, coordinator for the nonprofit, the nonprofit provides basic security and liability insurance coverage for lot owners and helps residents find social services and support agencies to help establish long-term housing. Maybe Bay Area cities can adopt a similar approach that Santa Barbara used to deal with its RV issues.