Living in Vehicles and Homeless Information

Homelessness and the regional housing crisis are significant issues for communities throughout the Bay Area, including Mountain View. Increasing housing availability and affordability remains a top priority of the City Council, and the City continues to examine a broad range of options for increasing supply and assisting displaced residents.  The City knows it cannot meet these significant challenges alone. The City is collaborating with Santa Clara County, the Community Services Agency (CSA) and other local non-profits to improve short and long-term community outcomes with regard to homelessness. 



The Santa Clara County count of homeless residents serves as a baseline for the understanding of homelessness in the region.  This survey captures individuals and families sleeping in emergency shelters and transitional housing, as well as people sleeping on the streets, in vehicles, in abandoned properties, or in other places not meant for human habitation.  Mountain View homelessness nearly doubled from 139 in 2013, to 276 in 2015.  These numbers have risen further countywide in 2017.  For Mountain View there are 416 homeless, up by 51 percent from 2015.

For more than two years, the City has been studying ways to address the rise in homelessness and residents living in vehicles, guided by detailed reports on the feasibility of safe parking options, regional stakeholder input and a community census. We are looking for feasible solutions to short-term human services support while putting people back on the path to stable housing. These efforts affect both housed and unsheltered residents.

Shorter-term strategies include, providing basic human services designed to start those in need on the path to more permanent future housing. Services authorized by City Council on October 4, 2016 include:

  • Mobile showers, laundry, and an ADA compliant portable toilet
  • Free waste-tank caps to prevent leaks, with further analysis of additional waste management options
  • Regular street cleaning in areas with RV parking
  • Support for exploring cold weather shelter or safe parking programs by faith-based organizations
  • On-going review of RV parking areas to assess visibility and safety
  • A mobile Outreach Worker based at CSA and a Caseworker for the chronically homeless in coordination with the County to link homeless individuals to services.

Longer-term strategies include, services authorized by the City Council on March 7, 2017, extending several of the short-term solutions mentioned above including funding for continuing programs like the funding of a mobile Outreach Worker based Community Services Agency (CSA) and a Caseworker with the County until June of 2019.  These new programs help to connect residents to support and stable housing options.  Additional funding was also provided for a pilot RV waste disposal program.  The City Council also supported on-going work with other agencies and community based organizations, engagement to faith-community, monitoring safe parking options, enhancing homeless client surveys, continuing to develop measurable goals for the new programs and reviewing parking and signage. 


October 24 City Council Study Session Update

At the affordable housing study session, staff estimated that the City’s various housing fee programs would generate approximately $78 million over the next four years, based on the current projects that are in the pipeline. Staff recommended that approximately $50 million be invested in general affordable housing developments at 60% AMI and below for a goal of 350-400 units, and up to $28 million for permanent supportive housing/rapid rehousing for a goal of 200-250 units. The City Council supported this investment strategy. Staff is working with the County, non-profit developers, and external partners to explore how to achieve this goal.

Implementing a Three-pronged Strategy

Committed More than $1 Million Dollars to Over the Next Two and a Half Years

Though we have been looking at this issue for some time, most of the resource-intensive initiatives being implemented are NEW.  A new Mobile Outreach and Casework Program began in March 2017, a new Community Outreach Officer was deployed in July 2017 and longer-term affordable housing strategies were considered in September 2017.

These initiatives follow the City’s three-pronged strategy, which is expected to take at least two years to help those in need and assist our neighborhoods:

  • Implement several short-term initiatives aimed at providing basic human services designed to start those in need on the path to more permanent future housing. This includes a new mobile social worker outreach at CSA jointly funded by the City and County, and case manager program with Peninsula Healthcare Connections.
  • Explore several long-term strategies to increase the overall housing supply with an emphasis on affordable housing.

  • Dedicate a new Community Outreach Police Officer to further enhance and coordinate community outreach and law enforcement operations (newly funded as part of the Fiscal Year 2017-18 budget).

We are also continuing to combine our efforts with other local and regional agencies to make a more substantial impact. Through the help of County of Santa Clara, community and faith-based groups, and members of the Santa Clara County EAN, like the Community Services Agency of Mountain View (CSA), we now have a better understanding of our local needs.

Continued outreach and regional cooperation has allowed us to ramp up outreach for homeless prevention services and homeless case management to address the unique needs of each individual. Some of the existing services we’re connecting people to include: CSA’s food and nutrition program; Mountain View’s Senior Nutrition Program at the Senior Center; showers, breakfast and CSA social worker access at Hope’s Corner, and showers and laundry services through Dignity on Wheels at CSA.

As we move into winter months, we are also working with the County on a proposed pilot program, funded by the County for a cold weather shelter at the Trinity United Methodist and will provide a pilot program for RV-waste disposal services.  (News:  Cold Weather Shelter Opens in Mountain View)

Related Council Reports

Update on Initiatives to Assist Homeless and Unstably Housed, and Consideration of Parking Enforcement Options — City Council Report, March 7 2018 (Item 7.1).

Affordable Housing Priorities and Strategic Framework – City Council Study Session Report , September 12, 2017.

Strategies to Assist the Homeless and Unstably Housed Residents –  City Council Report, March 7, 2017.  

Update on Efforts Related to Homeless Residents Living in Vehicles, and Consideration of Direction on Options – City Council Report, October 4, 2016. 

action plan

Within the larger direction established by Council at the October 2016 and March 2017 Council meetings linked above, staff developed a fifty (50) item work plan of action items (Homeless Initiatives Work Plan). Click here for a the work plan progress as of December 2017.  City continues to look at solutions and options. Status is summarized below and a further update on the homeless initiatives and enforcement options will be provided to the City Council on March 6, 2018:

    • 33 Action items are completed
    • 11 Action items have been implemented and are now ongoing
    • 5 Action items are in progress
    • 1 Item is on hold

Mountain View Code on living in vehicles

It is helpful to understand that vehicles used for sleeping are not illegal if the vehicle complies with other laws. Enforcement of the Mountain View City Code Chapter 19, Article IX Section 19.111(c), which prohibits vehicles parked on public streets from being used for dwelling purposes has been suspended in light of recent case law on this issue. In Desertrain v. City of Los Angeles, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a similar provision of the City of Los Angeles City Code was unconstitutional. 

The City continues to enforce other code provisions such as vehicles parking for more than 72 hours when applicable. Visit this helpful webpage. 



The City understands concerns about maintaining the quality of life in Mountain View and balancing interests of those living in vehicles with those of our neighbors. While most residents living in vehicles abide by laws, Mountain View has continued to enforce other code provisions when applicable, such as illegal waste dumping or trespassing.

  • Both residents living in vehicles and neighbors are encouraged to contact the Mountain View Police Department (MVPD) when experiencing any emergency or safety threat by dialing 9-1-1.
  • For non-emergency concerns, call the non-emergency line at (650) 903-6395.
  • You may also report vehicles parked for more than 72 hours by calling our hotline at (650) 903-6358.

Looking to Help?

The best way for people to help is to volunteer or donate money or items to members of the Emergency Assistance Network (EAN), which include the Community Services Agency here in Mountain View. Get more information about local EANs and the Community Services Agency in the links below.

Santa Clara County Hotlines are also available:

  • Call 2-1-1 for Health and Human Services in Santa Clara County
  • Homeless Helpline: Call the County Office of Supportive Housing at (408) 793-0550 to ask for assistance or report a homeless person in need in Santa Clara County (excluding San Jose)
  • Homeless can register to receive text messages about services as by sending a text message to 888777

HelpFul Resources for Our Homeless Neighbors

Santa Clara County Hotlines are also available:

  • Call 2-1-1 for Health and Human Services in Santa Clara County
  • Homeless Helpline: Call the County Office of Supportive Housing at (408) 793-0550 to ask for assistance or report a homeless person in need in Santa Clara County (excluding San Jose)
  • Homeless can register to receive text messages about services as by sending a text message to 888777


For questions about the City's homeless initiatives, use AskMV and choose "Homeless/Living in Vehicles" from the menu. 

For questions about parking violations, use AskMV and choose "Police Department/Parking Enforcement" from the menu.

Periodic updates are also available by, following the City's social media channels, which you can access through