Safe spot for RV parking in East Palo Alto called a success

There's a pilot program in East Palo Alto that gives people who live in their RVs a safe place to park overnight.

It just started a few months ago and it's being called a success.

On Wednesday night, leaders from other Bay Area cities were on hand to see how it works.

The program currently has 16 RVs parked in its lot on Bay Road.

Judith Ortiz welcomed a KTVU crew inside her RV, where she lives with her 2-year-old nephew, Angel, and her sister.  Ortiz works as a server in a restaurant, but  says she couldn't afford the apartment she was living in when rent increased from $1,200 to $3,200 a month.

"It's been a little bit hard to get back in business, get back on my feet," said Ortiz. 

To help her and others living in RVs get back on their feet, Project WeHOPE, a nonprofit,  and the city of East Palo Alto started RV Safe Parking in May, transforming a once-vacant lot into a community of RVs that house mostly families.  There are toilets and showers along with washers and dryers. People can park their RVs here from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. There is also a security guard on site. 

"You talk to them, not at them. Then you establish that level of trust," said Pastor Paul Bains who founded WeHOPE.

He is also chaplain for the East Palo Alto and the Palo Alto police departments.

He says those relationships along with partnerships with other nonprofits have helped transition people to stable housing.

He says in just three months, dozens who had been living here in their RVs have moved into homes.

Leaders from other Bay Area cities came to the lot where the RVs are parked overnight to talk to Bains about the program.

The pastor is already working with Oakland and San Jose on  similar RV programs.

One 11-year-old girl and her family are scheduled to move out of their RV in September.

"It feels good. I'm going to have my own room. I'm going to have quiet so I can do my homework," said Jaslene Orozco.

The sixth grader says living out of an RV was difficult and scary when they had to park on the street.

"People were doing drugs.  They were drunk," said Jaslene.

As for Ortiz, she  says she's awaiting her turn to get housing and move out of her RV.

"You have to be strong. What's in the past is in the past. It's one day at a time,"  she said. 


In addition to help finding stable housing, the program offers dinner each night and services such as job placement.

A Redwood city council member and leaders from other cities say they plan to replicate this program. 

To help Project WeHOPE, text DIGNITY to 56512 to give.