Palo Alto OKs church to house the homeless in parking lot Palo Alto OKs church to house the homeless in parking lot
Highway Community Church in Palo Alto is among the places of worship that will host vehicle dwellers at its parking lot. Photo by Lloyd Lee.
Soon, the cracked pavement of Highway Community Church's parking lot on Middlefield Road in Palo Alto will be home to up to four vehicle dwellers, at least from the hours of 6 p.m. to 8 a.m.
It's the first of potentially four or more lots at Palo Alto's houses of worship that the City Council recently approved as part of its Safe Parking Program, which has been in the works for more than a year.
Using a temporary ordinance that allows religious institutions to host up to four vehicles on their land, the city is hoping the program will be one way to alleviate local homelessness among those who have resorted to living in their vehicles, many parking along busy streets like El Camino Real.
Highway Community, which submitted an application in November, was given the city's green light on March 2. Two more churches — Peninsula Bible Church, also on Middlefield Road, and the Unitarian Church on East Charleston Road — await approval, and others like Unity Church, which is next door to Highway Community, have expressed interest in applying.
"There's a number of different initiatives we're working on, and this is one that felt very timely given the decreased opportunities that were there at the start of COVID for people who are housing insecure," said Jake Dodson, pastor of Highway Community.