Homelessness is a problem around the country and includes entire families living out of cars, trucks, vans and RVs.

Driving down Main Street in Bishop, you might have noticed some activity taking place in the parking lot in front of the old Kmart building. What you are witnessing is Inyo Mono Advocates for Community Action (IMACA), with a supporting role played by Inyo County Health and Human Services, providing a suitable place to implement its Safe Parking Project for homeless people living out of their cars, trucks and vans.

The Safe Parking Project is the result of Governor Gavin Newsom’s March 19 executive order requiring counties and cities to provide suitable shelter for the state’s homeless population during the coronavirus pandemic.

Portable toilets and sanitation stations have been placed on the site to make sure that those staying there are following the recommended sanitation guidelines issued by the California Department of Public Health.

Single moms with children are not uncommon with the homeless population.

The current parking situation is only temporary until the county can find a long-term solution. The current lease on the Kmart parking lot expires when the state of emergency is lifted by the county’s Public Health Officer, Jim Richardson.

IMACA’s Housing and Planning Director, Larry Emerson, told Sierra Wave that the homeless using the old Kmart parking lot are expected to stay there unless performing essential business, i.e. shopping, medical appointments, etc. The first night they only had 1 RV, 2 people.

Dogs provide a lot of comfort for those sheltering in place, as well as the homeless.

Staff from IMACA and the county’s Probation Department have been staffing the parking lot. So far there have not been a lot of takers. The homeless are often spread out through the area and it can be difficult to communicate with them, but Emerson feels that the word will eventually get out to them and hopefully they will take advantage of  the offer to have a safe place to park overnight.