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UCSB student organization Street Health Outreach recently created an online petition to allow people to live in their cars in vacant Isla Vista parking lots without risk of being ticketed.
The petition, which is entitled “Regain safe parking in Isla Vista,” can be found on www.Change.org, and specifically requests Santa Barbara New Beginnings Counseling Center to extend their Safe Parking program to the I.V. community. The document was drafted in light of the community’s current lack of open parking locations for homeless individuals who reside in I.V.
According to the petition document, an abandoned lot by the St. Athanasius Church previously had safe parking before a nearby skate park was built. With the skate park now removed, however, SHO hopes to help the homeless regain safe parking.
The petition stated the creation of a Safe Parking location will allow individuals living in a vehicle to remain in a stable site.
“The homeless that are living in their cars are now forced to drive in and out of I.V. every morning and night just to be in their homes, with their family and friends,” the petition stated. “This is extremely costly and could be prevented.”
Kerina Yao, second-year biopsychology major and a two-year SHO member, drafted the petition and said SHO is currently trying to get as many signatures as possible while also conducting more research on ways to handle the situation.
According to Yao, SHO will contact New Beginnings to inquire how the previous lot was removed and who replaced it with the skate park. Once enough signatures are obtained, she said, the organization will consider handing the petition to a representative, possibly District Supervisor Doreen Farr.
“This is a great way for us to advocate and provide outreach for the homeless,” Yao said. “This petition will allow them to park safely at night and feel more comfortable in the place they call home. We are helping them accomplish something that they cannot necessarily do on their own because we have resources like the Internet and a bigger connection to the student body and community.”
Yao currently goes on weekend and monthly visits to the homeless community during periods when many people are low on money and food stamps. She said her alliance with local homeless individuals focuses on empathetic connection and assistance that furthers SHO’s mission.
“I want to understand the circumstances of the homeless and get to know them better so that I can help the community gain respect for them and ultimately desire to give back as well,” Yao said. “In SHO, we try to gain trust from the homeless by making friendships, so that we can help them seek the aid that they need, as well as advocate for them by breaking stereotypes.”
Ellise Fallon, second-year biopsychology major and SHO member, said she signed the petition to alleviate some of the burden already placed on the homeless community.
“I signed it because I know many of the homeless personally, including many who live in their vehicles. At night, they have to drive into Goleta in order to take advantage of the safe parking spots, which uses expensive gas,” Fallon said. “I try to go as long as I can without filling up my tank, so I can’t even imagine the burden filling up a gas tank must be on someone less fortunate than me.”
Fallon said she believes this plan will not harm other I.V. residents in any way, as the lot is currently not occupied. According to Fallon, allowing members of the homeless community to stay in their cars overnight will help integrate them into the I.V. community.
“The more exposure the students of Isla Vista have to the homeless community, the more likely they are to realize that the homeless are people who have thoughts, interests, talents and beliefs just like the rest of us,” Fallon said.
Additionally, Fallon said she encourages students to attend SHO’s annual homeless awareness night on May 28 in the SRB at 5:30 p.m. The event aims to highlight a variety of legal issues faced by the homeless and will feature presentations and speeches by homeless members of the community as well as speakers from SHO.