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How about the Safe Overnight Parking Plan - How is that going?

REPORT FROM THE AD HOC COMMITTEE FOR THE UNHOUSED
 
When the City Council created the Ad Hoc Committee for the Unhoused on October 5, 2021, one of the tasks assigned was to "provide support to WCCS in the initial stages of its delivery and coordination of services to the unhoused.” Specifically listed in WCCS’s services agreement with the City was the obligation to “facilitate communication/collaboration between the safe parking programs offered by various churches and other institutions” and to “help facilitate communication regarding offers of safe parking to the unhoused.” Accordingly, as directed by the City Council, one of the tasks the Ad Hoc Committee has carried out is to provide support to WCCS in its efforts to facilitate communication and collaboration between safe parking programs. 
 
The Ad Hoc Committee has been impressed by West County Community Services’s efforts regarding safe overnight parking in Sebastopol. WCCS has been working diligently to support the existing safe overnight parking program at Community Church of Sebastopol, and also to assist two other churches that are exploring the idea of offering safe overnight parking. This support has included regular meetings facilitated by WCCS and attended by Ad Hoc Commitee member Diana Rich, with the main agenda focused on addressing the questions and concerns of the various churches expressing interest, as well as helping them share information and resources to inform their decision-making process. 

There are two additional churches that are considering implementing safe overnight parking programs. A third church is not able to offer its own parking lot, but is offering to assist one of the two that are considering making their lots available. None of these churches have made final decisions, but all are seriously interested. (The churches are not specifically identified here, in order to respect the internal decision-making by their congregations.)
 
Neither the City nor WCCS has contracts with any of the churches, and no contracts or formal agreements are foreseen. The churches realize that taking on a safe overnight parking program is a decision they and their congregation need to make independently. Both the Ad Hoc Committee and WCCS have been encouraging and supportive of the efforts by the churches regarding safe overnight parking. Given the current number of vehicular unhoused in Sebastopol, all involved in these discussions agree that continuation of the Community Church program, as well as expansion to additional church parking lots, helps Sebastopol’s unhoused, and also benefits the greater Sebastopol community. 
 
In discussions with the churches, they have indicated that they may be requesting reimbursement from the City for some minimal expenses associated with safe overnight parking, should they choose to move forward with implementation. Any such requests would be submitted by the Ad Hoc Committee to the full City Council for consideration. 
 
WCCS has committed to continue to act as facilitator for City-wide safe overnight parking efforts. Specifically, in response to requests and concerns expressed by the churches attending the meeting, WCCS has stated its willingness to act as a continuing resource to help connect churches with vehicular unhoused to consider for their lots, and to provide churches (if requested) with legally allowed screenings of “parkers.” Decision-making control, over who will be accepted into a particular church’s program, as well as all other details of the program, will always be in the hands of each church. 
As stated, each church will define the terms of its own program, but the basic parameters being discussed by the churches are the following: The church will select 3-5 “parkers.” They will accept standard sized vehicles rather than RVs or similar larger sized vehicles. The parkers will be allowed to park in the lot overnight only. The church will offer a portapottie or access to indoor bathrooms. A volunteer lot monitor will drive through the lot each night and will report any unauthorized vehicles to the police. Our police department will continue to provide responsive services, just as has been and will continue to be provided currently throughout our town. 
 
All churches involved recognize the need to reach out to neighbors. They expect compassion and understanding, as well as some anxiety and trepidation. They are committed to being responsive to their neighbors. All involved feel confident that once the safe parkers are in place, and the neighbors realize that the impact is not as their anxiety might suggest, all will be reassured. WCCS and the Ad Hoc Committee have offered to attend neighbor meetings, to the extent any particular church feels that would be helpful. The congregants of Community Church have also offered to attend, so they can share their very successful experience with their well-established safe parking program.
This report is offered in order to ensure the City Council is up to speed on this particular aspect of the Ad Hoc Committee’s work. Additional details will be provided in the Ad Hoc Committee’s monthly reports to the full City Council. 

Diana Rich, Sebastopol City Council
321 S. Main St. #60, Sebastopol CA 95472
drich@cityofsebastopol.org
707 861-0032
FPPC #1430199
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