by Juanita Ramos
On October 24, families residing in RVs on Winston Drive and Buckingham Way converged at the intersection of the two streets at 8:30 a.m. Their assembly, joined by a coalition of service providers, neighbors, and concerned community members, carried a poignant request: They implored the San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH) to honor its commitment to provide safe parking sites and permanent housing. This appeal has become even more pressing in light of impending parking restrictions. On September 19, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) Board of Directors voted in favor of four-hour parking restrictions on Winston Drive and Buckingham Way. This decision, if implemented, poses a grave risk of displacement, towing, and heightened housing insecurity for over a hundred RV occupants, including families, seniors, and students.
In September, a large group of RV residents and their allies rallied together and successfully secured a three-month delay to the parking restrictions, pushing the implementation date to December 19. Their plea to the city’s homeless department is clear: Provide a safe parking site and permanent housing before the restrictions take effect. The cause has drawn support from numerous nonprofits and service providers, including GLIDE, the Coalition on Homelessness, Compass Family Services, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, HomeRise, Episcopal Community Services, and Safe & Sound.
“I live here because I can’t pay rent,” said Deisiene Pereira, a mother who resides in her RV on Winston Drive. “I have two children. If they take us out of here I’ll have to live in my car with my children. And sometimes I don’t even have money to buy milk for my son. Because I have no way of leaving here.”
In calling for a safe parking site and access to permanent housing for the families, GLIDE policy manager Eleana Binder said, “Implementing the parking restrictions without options will push them deeper into instability and homelessness. We are calling on city departments to collaborate and move urgently to support the students and families in moving from marginalization and precarity towards stability and hope.”
Javier Bremond, human rights organizer at the Coalition on Homelessness, said that the parking restrictions would displace families living on Winston Drive and disperse their tight-knit community. “These actions will lead many on an avoidable path directly to homelessness,” he said. “Instead, we need a safe place for people to park and housing for everyone.”
After being continually displaced in his native Colombia, RV resident Carlos Conde said he had found comfort on Winston Drive. “I looked for a way out of my country precisely because of so much violence and forced displacement,” he said. “Now here in San Francisco, we find ourselves in this situation that seems terrible to us, and as far as I understand, is due to accidents of which no motorhome or mobile home was part. We are in a student area and the rule indicates that you have to travel at less than 35 [miles per hour], which we respect. The university also has some parking lots and authorized areas, so we are not impeding those spaces either. We try to respect all the rules and only ask for a relocation with guarantees that we can feel that we are not going to be displaced.” Kyle Pitta, another RV resident, agreed. “We want a place where we can be safe like we are right here,” he said.
The people living in RVs all repeated similar themes at the rally: Living in an RV is rough, and they lack necessities like access to water, electricity, and sanitation. But losing that RV would mean homelessness. Their children need stability, to be able to go to school. They called loudly for public officials to provide both safe parking and housing.
Hope Kamer, director of public policy and external affairs at Compass Family Services, noted that over 200 families were on the waitlist for shelter last month. “In this landscape, it is difficult to understand SFMTA’s decision to force dozens of families out of even tenuous stability back into literal homelessness,” she said. Our partners at HSH and SFMTA can and must locate a viable safe parking solution by December for these RVs before forcing families to move with fundamentally nowhere to go.”
The voices of those who call their RVs home are growing louder, seeking refuge from homelessness and the promise of a better future. Their united plea resonates across the community, urging city officials to respond with compassion, swift action, and a resolution prioritizing their safety and well-being.
To view the –entire press conference please see the recording available via Facebook Live at this link: https://www.facebook.com/CoalitionOnHomelessness/live_videos/