SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- The city of Palo Alto is expanding its safe parking program at churches to combat homelessness.
On Monday, the city council voted to permanently establish the Congregation-Based Safe Parking Program.
The city currently has four churches where people in passenger vehicles can park overnight with access to restrooms and connections to social service programs.
With the expansion, sites can allow up to eight passenger cars instead of four.
The city said this year, 34 individuals were connected to housing from these sites.
In January of this year, the city took a "point in time" count of unhoused individuals in Palo Alto. They found that 206 individuals were unhoused and 181 of them were sleeping in vehicles, nearly 88 percent.
City councilmember Julie Lythcott-Haims and others on the council think more data collection is needed.
"I have met with members of our RV dwellers community who have told me they weren't counted. And I've heard that enough times from people that it feels clear to me there's an undercount," Lythcott-Haims.
With the expansion, the city directed staff to gather clearer data on the population of those who are unhoused in the city.
The vote to expand passed 6-1. Council member Greg Tanaka was the only 'no' vote.
"I think part of the issue is it's kind of lightly used because, unlike other cities like Santa Barbara, or like Mountain View where they also have parking enforcement, we only have the safe parking. So there's not much of an incentive for people to park in these safe parking spots," Tanaka said.
Even though the data said the safe parking sites are not at capacity and not in demand, the majority of the council felt anyone connected to housing from the program was a win.
"Thirteen is not zero, it's not twelve, it's not eleven, each one that we can help to a positive outcome is worth the effort," Councilmember Ed Lauing said.
The city is also increasing the space at the public safe parking site for RV's located off Greng Road.
The city will also consider expanding the Safe Parking Program to commercial lots.
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