Homeless living in cars provided safe parking at old Kmart parking lot

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.


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16 Responses to Homeless living in cars provided safe parking at old Kmart parking lot

  1. Indygal May 8, 2020 at 5:32 pm #

    I was just there today. Walmart allows RV’s to stay in their lot, so what’s the big deal? Compassion is a graceful stance to take. Let’s keep it up!

  2. Liberty May 7, 2020 at 7:41 pm #

    The problem I see, in this article, are pictures of small kids living in a car and I don’t know if this is local or stock pics. I also read they are putting them in a parking lot at the old K-mart and we all know temps can go way up soon and this isn’t a workable solution. This isn’t some single guy like you who can manage a little more than others and your time frame was long ago when things were different. Back in the Great Depression in the valley we had tent camps of people living all over the creeks, rivers and lakes living off the land and none of that would be legal now and the trout you lived off would be a big fine. We ranchers, back then I was told, gave them our old cows now and then to eat and they helped us on fences and at fall roundup and we all got by with a little help. The situation now for mom’s with kids isn’t the same these days and their needs are all different. Nobody is saying they should go to a downtown slum, but there are other areas that would work that have services that aren’t in rural counties.

    • Charles James May 7, 2020 at 9:16 pm #

      The photos are a problem and thanks for pointing it out. They are stock photos. We wanted to show that those suffering with homelessness are not just those with mental health or substance abuse problems as many assume, but actual, regular people and families down on their luck…and somehow as a society we’re failing to effectively deal with it despite our “social nets.”
      The problem with your position, in my view, is that you are making an assumption that the homeless would somehow be better off “somewhere else”, by implication more populated. Unfortunately, “somewhere else” is not necessarily any better than here in a rural area. In fact, it might be far worse. Others might argue that this is a far better place to be if homeless for no other reason than it’s harder to ignore because its more obvious …and it is small communities like ours that are more likely to have compassion for those less fortunate among us. Neither is a good situation to be in, but we do seem to look out for each other up here.
      Again, Liberty, thanks for commenting.

    • David Dennison May 7, 2020 at 9:23 pm #

      I see what your saying,but I doubt those photos of homeless women and children in vehicles are local photos,maybe Charles James can help with that one.
      When I did my re-location,for the most part,I obeyed all the laws of the land.
      Almost two weeks stranded in an abandoned campground outside of Bridgeport…in early March…with a Mountain Lion lurking around late night-early mornings I think wanting to eat my Dog…VERY cold,but no fishing,still had food,just a broken down truck that CalTrans workers helped with getting back on the road.
      Then onto a week or so in Holiday Campground in Rock Creek Canyon,getting low on cash,but kinda had an outdoor “garage sale” of things I didn’t really want to sell to get me on my way.
      A few nights here and there around Bishop in the hills and outskirts.
      By then ,Inyo fishing season open,got my license and never went over my daily limit.
      For about 4 months,I did stay by the creek,probably not legal,but was told early on I could stay until I got a complaint,which I didn’t…kept the area clean and pristine.
      After those 4 months there, and when I was finally told I had to leave in 72 hours,I did.
      By then,got to know some people around town,finding some work,including a maintenance job at a mobile home park that included a free of charge beat-up trailer to live in.
      Sometimes,I have trouble understanding a long,homeless situation,unless it includes mental illness,drug and/or alcohol abuse.
      There’s work out there for all that want to and able to work….just takes a little time to make it work,getting back on your feet and into a place….IMO.

  3. David Dennison May 7, 2020 at 2:34 pm #

    Granted,there was no pandemic at the time,but you could probably say I was in a homeless situation back in 2000,when I relocated to the Owens Valley from Oregon,living in a truck or tent,at times a bad situation taking 43 days to drive 1000 miles,what with the truck breaking down more than once,running out of money a time or two,living on the Trout I was catching on the creeks until I got a couple part time jobs and able to get into a rental.
    It took me about 6 months of tent living and some help along the way to get to that point and into a home again.
    There were plenty of services provided to me right here in the OV when I really needed them,along with work I was able to find to get me to a better point in life.
    I’m REALLY glad nobody tried to “re-locate” me into a big city,because if they did,a good chance I would’ve told them to pound sand if they did.This is where I wanted to be and start over,which I was able to do.
    Many of these homeless people,living out of a trailer,van or RV,not really homeless,and only wanting a safe place to park.,and where they want to be,not lost or “re-located” into a big city,and not like you see in the big SoCal cities with a homeless population sleeping on the sidewalks under blue tarps in high crime areas.
    IMO,IMACA does a great job here in the valley providing services to those in need.

  4. Liberty May 7, 2020 at 11:40 am #

    Some areas, in bigger cities, are providing hotel rooms and trailers, might be a good idea to re-locate people to where these services are provided. Small rural counties don’t have the same resources and should help them go to these services.

    • Mono Person May 7, 2020 at 2:00 pm #

      I own small motels, and I had some homeless “guests” paid for by the sheriffs dept. These people trashed my rooms, smoked in them, and were disrespectful to my staff. When I asked to be reimbursed just $100 for the smoking, the sheriffs dept. said no. I will never house them again!

      • Tinner May 7, 2020 at 3:58 pm #

        That’s kinda what I figured why some people are homeless, I once had a roommate like that, the only thing he ever did was make a mess and a lot of noise.

      • Stop non-essential travel May 9, 2020 at 6:56 pm #

        wait. you were denying their right to smoke ? you and your staff got upset about their expression of free speech ? sounds to me like they were simply participating in their constitutional rights.

        • David Dennison May 9, 2020 at 8:02 pm #

          Stop non-essential travel
          Unless your being sarcastic,is that what it’s come to…their “right” to smoke ?
          In case you haven’t noticed,about 99 % of motels now don’t allow smoking in their rooms.
          It’s not a Constitutional “right” over-riding that…..
          And it’s not a “freedom of speech right” to be rude or disrespectful,maybe close to violence to and in a business that they themselves can LEGALLY call Law Enforcement to have them removed,something like having the right to refuse service I’m sure would would fall under that.
          Unless your being sarcastic…..gimme a break !!

          • Stop non-essential travel May 10, 2020 at 12:28 pm #

            Mr Dennison, I was being sarcastic. the point is: people (Mono Person, for example) have been whining about their constitutional rights being squashed by the shelter-in-place orders, the delay of the fishing opener, canceling of events, and now by the orders to wear a mask in public if 6-ft distancing can’t be maintained; all of which are, at least for now, temporary measures to try to keep the public safe. The analogy is yes, there are certain behaviors and activities that are illegal in some circumstances and inconsiderate in others, but in the big picture we are all part of a global community; it’s mind-boggling that, with this pandemic, that so much self-serving whining about “tyranny” is getting tossed around.

          • David Dennison May 10, 2020 at 1:49 pm #

            Stop non-essential travel
            I kinda thought you were being sarcastic…
            But in this day and age,it’s kinda hard to tell when someone is doing that,with SO MANY stupid things being said and tossed around,mainly,like you say,the “tyranny” aspect,taking away “my rights”,Governor Newsom being part of the “deep state”,trying to control things and wanting California to go bankrupt.
            The Democrats hoping for “millions” of Americans to lose their lives,so they can blame trump.
            And of course,the suggestion to maybe drink or inject disinfectant and/or shove a lit lightbulb into your body to fight this “hoax” pandemic.
            Maybe it’s a good thing to try to find some type of humor in all of this,of course not from what has happened with so many lives being lost and effected,but from stupid things being bantered around by so many,including some of the people the Country should be maybe looking up to and maybe getting good advise from that we can believe.(at least in past administrations we could when something bad was happening).
            Nope,not today,not in this day and age.
            Now,it’s laughing at a lot with what is being said,maybe so we don’t all end up crying when we hear what we do.

    • Charles O. Jones May 8, 2020 at 7:37 am #


      How would you envision that happening? I’d imagine most people wouldn’t respond well to the notion of being relocated, and understandably so.

      • Mono Person May 8, 2020 at 11:53 am #

        But look what our government is doing to “homed” people? Our rights are being stomped over daily. And we just go along….

        • Charles O. Jones May 8, 2020 at 7:41 pm #

          From February 29 to today, over 77K Americans have died from this virus. And that’s with restrictions in place. If you feel these restrictions are unreasonable, how would you propose our federal, state and local officials manage this pandemic? And how many would have to die before you’d be willing to make some difficult decisions, like our leaders have had to do?

          It’s easy to sit back and complain. Leading our country, our state and our region through this crisis isn’t so easy. So give us your plan.

  5. Oddjob May 7, 2020 at 5:36 am #

    The summer months are ahead there may not be many takers, can you imagine the heat of living out of your car sitting on asphalt! And not leaving? Most will probably simply stay along the river where it undoubtedly will be more comfortable .


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