Safe Parking Stories

As part of an effort to get to know those in need, members of the Human Relations Commission reached out to Safe Parking participants in Mountain View. These are some of their stories.

About The City's Safe Parking Program

The City of Mountain View's Safe Parking program gives a temporary, overnight, safe location to park for individuals and families living in a vehicle while providing access to services that will transition them into more stable housing. Learn more...

Maricruz

Maricruz has lived in Mountain View for 12 years. She originally rented an apartment in the city, but it burned down and no other place was affordable. She is happy that she and other family members could afford RVs and can stay together. Maricruz lost her job of a decade at the start of the pandemic when her employer, a plant nursery, went out of business.

As she looks for work, she volunteers for Reach Potential, a local nonprofit that serves those in need. She is also studying English and is known for helping other families have home-cooked meals, which she makes and shares with her neighbors. Her husband will soon retire and will qualify for low-income senior housing, at which point she plans to leave the Safe Parking program.

Fred

Fred is a Bay Area native, who has lived off and on in Mountain View for 30 years. He was a homeowner in Sunnyvale but lost his house almost 30 years ago, and his last steady job about 25 years ago, and has not been able to find permanent work since. 

Before entering the safe parking program, he lived in a church parking lot in his car for several months but moved to a safe parking lot when they were opened to cars. This provided him a sense of community, with very “nice and neighborly” people he enjoyed. His days were still filled with driving around to get services, like going to the library for Internet access, Hope’s Corner for food, and places with showers. Like many people we interviewed, Fred wanted us to understand all the additional overhead and logistics a person incurs because of being homeless.

Fred shared that “Most of those who are homeless are just trying to live. We all get lumped together as ne’er-do-wells. It’s unfortunate.” He said it’s hard when people give him strange looks or cross the street to get away from him.

Fred has moved to transitional housing and is waiting to move soon to permanent housing. He had been in the safe parking program for about six months.

Martin

Martin, in his 60s, has lived in and around Mountain View for over 55 years. He worked as a programmer at Lockheed Martin, starting in the 1960s, and in his extended family’s dry cleaning business. He still works small jobs, which he finds through the Day Worker Center, and says finding services, like showers, can also take quite a bit of his time. The small and large inconveniences add up, making a steady job more difficult for those without traditional housing. He does not want to leave the area, because he and his wife both have significant health issues, and have an established care network here, and also because transferring to another insurance and health care system would be very challenging. Their lifelong friends and family are also all here.

Living in the lot has provided stability and community as they wait for placement into permanent housing, which he hopes is soon, so he can give his space to “someone who needs it even more.”

Update: Martin and his wife have recently moved into transitional housing and are on their way to permanent, supportive housing.

Cristian

Cristian, who is 26, lives with his wife and their 3 children (ages 10 months to 7 years). They used to rent an apartment on California Street but the rent increases went up much faster than their income. They bought an RV while Cristian works multiple jobs in the area, including car wash, house cleaning and construction. He was laid off from his construction job due to the pandemic and only recently has gone back —  but only part-time. The Safe Parking program opened up just as he was laid off, which he calls a miracle.

He views living in an RV as a temporary solution to get through challenging times. The family is saving up to buy a mobile home. He wants to stay in Mountain View because it is near job opportunities, is peaceful, and is a safe place to raise his family.

Anthony

Anthony shared an apartment with his mom until she needed to go into assisted living in Mountain View. Because he could not afford a place on his own, he parked on the streets. But he always felt in danger and was physically beaten multiple times. 

He worked for 30 years in the packaging industry and had to retire early due to a disability. His disability was made worse by living in a small car before he upgraded to a slightly larger vehicle in which he can sleep horizontally. He’s lived nearly four decades in or near Mountain View and stays to support his mother and to be close to his adult sons and his new grandson, which are his support system.

He hopes to soon move to a larger vehicle so he won't need to move around belongings just to make room to sleep at night. He is also looking forward to finding a way to store and cook food so he can eat more healthily. He wants people to understand that vehicle residents are not bad people. Some have had bad situations, but they are good people.

Rouel

Rouel is in his 70s and has lived in Mountain View for 20 years. He’s a retired engineer who worked at Lockheed Martin. He lived in an RV park for a few years, but park rent became too expensive. Several years ago, he started to park on the street and formed a sense of community with others. But, parking violations became too expensive.

At Shoreline Lot B, he’s known as the go-to guy for getting things fixed. As we spoke to him, people asked for help fixing their solar array battery, and he’s regularly helping people. He says he loves his community and wishes that people knew that those living in RVs are not bad people, that they are all just trying to get along.

Update: Rouel has since been able to move on from the Safe Parking program.

Sandra

Sandra lives with her husband and her son who is a freshman in high school. The family moved to Mountain View so Sandra could work at her sister’s growing house and commercial cleaning business, whose customers are all in or near Mountain View. Her husband works at an electronics manufacturing services company. She discovered her son was much more successful at Crittenden Middle School than his previous school, where he was bullied.

Sandra’s days can be challenging. She wakes up very early to shower at a commercial facility, gets her son to school and her husband to his car (which is parked offsite), goes to work, and takes nursing classes. Her RV has no working stove, making meal preparation challenging. There was no broadband access for her son to do his distance learning during the pandemic. But, according to her, life in Mountain View is worth the challenges, with far more job opportunities and good schools for her child.

Miguel

Miguel is a 56-year-old delivery driver and works odd jobs all around Mountain View. But even with full-time work and the extra income, he cannot afford rent. After his adult son died, he needed to be near his grandkids and support his family. He proudly states he’s never taken any state benefits, not even unemployment, in his 30 years in the U.S.

Before entering the Safe Parking program, he lived on the streets. One night, a drunk driver careened out of control and damaged his vehicle. If Miguel had been asleep in his vehicle, he would have been crushed. He, like other vehicle residents who have lived on busy streets, we’re unable to sleep due to road noise and find the safe parking program a relief.

Miguel is proud and always looking to better himself. He believes helping others will make the world a better place for all. He speaks passionately about global warming and is becoming a pescatarian to reduce his impact. He is part of a group of residents who watch out for people and help keep everyone safe.

Guadalupe

Guadalupe grew up in Mountain View. Her father lives here and her mother and siblings are nearby. She was a full-time outreach liaison for an elementary school in the Sunnyvale School District, but that job ended over the summer. At 32, she plans to survive by using credit cards until she finds another job. For the past few years, she has been planning to get her master’s in social work, but the pandemic soon hit after she was accepted into a program. She could no longer afford housing and tuition. Not one to easily give up, however, she vows to get her degree, no matter how long it takes.

She says living in an RV is hard, and requires a lot of adjustments. Water is very scarce. Before the pandemic, she showered at the gym, but couldn’t do that once the gym closed. Meal planning takes a lot of time now because she has no refrigerator to store fresh food. But she has gained confidence about her ability to adapt.

Guadalupe shared that “just because you see someone living in an RV doesn’t mean they don’t have goals. We’re doing it because we’re trying to reach our goals!”

Update: Guadalupe recently shared that she has been able to secure a full-time job with benefits.

Jua

Jua has lived in or near Mountain View for ten years to be close to his job. For the last five years, he’s lived in an RV with his adult son. He’s lived with roommates in the past, but the rent always increased beyond what they could afford. Already in his mid-60s, he works part-time at a local Thai restaurant. He bikes quickly and safely to his job, which is less than two miles on a safe biking route from his Safe Parking lot. He has always worked ever since he immigrated from Thailand — a point of pride.

He loves his neighbors and wants to cook Thai meals for everyone. He says he and his neighbors don’t have houses, but they have homes and feels many people don’t understand how much that is valued in the community.

Reindo

Reindo lives and works in Mountain View and sends money back to Brazil to provide for his mother, who has cancer.  While he would prefer a stable job, he is proud of making his living as a delivery driver. Unfortunately, while the work continued through the pandemic, he couldn’t consistently make enough money to afford his rented room in Mountain View.

He lived in his car for 1.5 years to save up money to buy an RV, which was very uncomfortable. But he is committed to achieving his long-term goals and providing for his family.

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