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Approved homeless, living in vehicles, could find spots soon in Carpinteria

CARPINTERIA, Calif. - The growing number of homeless people, many in the last year, have Carpinteria leaders looking at solutions.

A presentation by New Beginnings showed could help in the weeks ahead.

The organization has been helping the homeless with approved overnight sleeping areas through its Safe Parking program.

Executive Director Kristine Schwarz told councilmembers Monday evening since 2003 they have been helping those in need with housing options, homeless overnight parking, counseling, veterans needs and several other services.

There are strict screening rules and a monitor to make sure there's compliance. "The lots are for parking and sleeping only.  It is not for people to put out a barbecue and chairs or  have a party and bring their friends over.  It is literarily, they come in, go to sleep and leave," said Schwarz. 

City officials say they have had complaints from residents and business owners when people are sleeping in their cars in unapproved locations. That has resulted in trash and waste issues.

One business owner says he has been impacted weekly and the cleanup is costly. "They look for some place to go hide to do their business and often times that is our building.  My understanding is human waste is hazardous waste," said Mike Pollard who owns a property on Carpinteria Ave. downtown.

The city agreed to look into options including the parking lot at Viola Fields.

"We should look at a buffer zone away  away from residents that won't be impacted. I think this is a great opportunity," said Councilman Roy Lee. That backed up the Viola suggestion in that it is not near homes.

In addition, it will evaluate the possibility of adding 24 hour portable restrooms in two locations in the city for those in need of a restroom after the city's public restrooms are closed at night. If approved it will cost about $4100 annually.

New Beginnings says the COVID crisis has added to homelessness and some people who have been unable to pay for their housing, are now in their cars. It's estimated the rate has gone up about 20 percent.

The program is successfully operated in Santa Barbara and Goleta, and is a model for other areas in the state and as far away as New York.

Those who apply go through a detailed check and have to abide by a set of strict rules, including set hours for arrival and departure, no parties, outside fires, or guests. They are also not allowed to park nearby during the day.

At each parking lot there are monitors all night, and an emergency hotline available for any concerns.

Schwarz says in the past, some of those staying overnight have been involved in keeping their areas clean and safe, by picking up any leftovers in the morning and calling in if there are any concerns in their lots or nearby areas.

One even saved the American flag during a storm when it was coming off of a pole.

For more information go to: New Beginnings

Article Topic Follows: Safety

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT News Channel 3-12. To learn more about John, click here.


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