Are police systematically killing the mentally ill

Statistically, when it’s comes to police protecting and serving citizens this recent report, suggests law enforcement personnel are finding themselves having to confront the ever rising tide of community mental health issues often with fatal consequences.

The mentally impared represents a very small segment of our policing society and yet shockingly over 1/4 of the US population killed by police involved the mentally ill at some level.

Unfortunately, many policing agencies are ill equipped for handling emergencies dealing with emotional meltdowns on our streets and in our own living rooms.

The aftermath in far too many cases often results in heartbreaking news and the tragic loss of human life as was the case recently at a Palo Alto mental health facility.

And all to familiar, another man who was shot and killed was known to the San Mateo sheriffs department as a person suffering from schizophrenia.

The vast majority of police shootings are found to be justifies. Why? Officers fearing for their lives and in most cases, cleared of any criminal wronging doing a common outcome.

One of the most egregious cases of police abuse

was Kelly Thomas beaten to death by Fullerton police officers. Kelly Thomas also suffered from schizophrenia.

Kelly Thomas
Kelly Thomas

Few policing agencies are prepared to deal with the mental health issues encounter on our streets and despite the limited CIT [crisis intervention training] received by many local policing agencys including the San Mateo police, fatalities continue which suggests a broken training program.

Our National Mental Health System has gone beyond critical mass when it comes to policing the mentally impared. This is made evident by the continued stories of police responding to calls from distressed family members only to have their family member shot and killed by police or beaten to death.

This is exactly what occurred to a man in Pacifica, California, whose family members called police requesting assistance in calming down their distraught son.  The police responded, handcuffed the son, tazering him, and he subsequently died.

No one has all the answers as to whether or not the limited training class received by the for San Mateo police was enough training to handle these crisis situation but from all outward appearence this was not the case.

However, statistically, the continued increase in fatal police interventions of our mentally impaired citizens should give rise to, and dictate, a greater focus on the needs of the most vulnerable of our population, the mentally impaired.

One major policing agency making inroads into this growing national problems is the Memphis, Tennessee, Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Team which has become nationally recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice, as being a first to establish an elite group of police officers and mental health professionals specializing in mental health crisis situations with phenomenal success.

We’re not sure if the outcome would have been any different in Fullerton, Pacifica or in San Mateo, but it’s time to address our policing of this minority group head-on with properly trained Crisis–Intervention-Teams. And the time is now!

Related stories: Hold Your Fire

Editor’s note: Tazers continue to be hotly debated as an effect compliance tool in dealing with those suffering from a mental crisis.

 

Homeless Legal Shell Game Maybe Over

Homeless Shell GameBy all accounts most everyone prefers to have the homeless simply disappear. A closer look at laws and ordinances enacted to curb homelessness on the streets of America is staggering.

From all outward appearances, seemingly benign laws such as, loitering, sleeping on the streets or in your vehicles, sit and lie ordinances are designed in reality, to force homeless individuals to go elsewhere.

Many experts in the field refer to such actions as “Selective Enforcement” a human shell game of legal maneuvering with the intent of clearing out the homeless population specifically those living in their vehicles as with the ordinance facing vehicle dwellers in Palo Alto.

Although city leadership would have us all think otherwise, there is no denying the fact that in Palo Alto city leaders are set to ban vehicles dwellers off the streets.

So what are they waiting for? Their waiting for the California 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to render its decision on the constitutionality in a similar case as outlined in a memo by city manager James Keene to Palo Alto city council members.

The vast majority of past legal cases centers on vagueness of laws enacted and or the “lack of notice of proscribed conduct.” see: City of Chicago v. Morales, 527 U.S. 41 (1999).

We believe this is not just an ordinary 9th Circuit Court of Appeals waiting shell game, but valuable time being given the city of Palo Alto and its immense legal staff the opportunity of fine tuning or making sure that all vagueness is removed from the ordinance before enforcement begins.

Cheyenne Desertrain vs. City of Los Angeles

Update: The human legal vehicle dweller shell game maybe over.

The city of Palo Alto has been anxiously awaiting the decision coming down from the 9th circuit court of appeals in rendering or putting its final touches on banning vehicle dwellers off its streets.

The delays stem from an earlier challenge in the case of Cheyenne Desertrain vs. City of Los Angeles which questioned the constitutionality on a similar ban on vehicle serving as mobile shelters for the unconventionally housed.

This along awaited prolonged court battle for the time being is over. In its decision, the court stated and clearly pointed to the “Vagueness Doctrine”.

The vagueness doctrine is designed specifically to prevent this type of selective enforcement, in which a “‘net [can] be cast at large, to enable men to be caught who are vaguely undesirable in the eyes of the police and prosecution, although not chargeable in any particular offense.’” …

OPINION UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT

It’s unclear how the impact of this decision will effect the city of Palo Alto in rethinking or pursuing further its ban on vehicle dwellers. But, for the moment, the human legal vehicle dweller shell game maybe over….

Leyes de control de armas de fuego desleales en Nicaragua

Glock .45
Glock .45

A diferencia de Estados Unidos, a Nicaragua le hace falta leyes estrictas de control de armas. Durante el proceso de compra de cualquier arma debe obtener y pasar una evaluación psicológica, entre otros requisitos.

Ellos no quieren que los ciudadanos no balanceados posean armas de ningún tipo por las razones obvias.

Necesidad de evaluación psicológica

Si los Estados Unidos tenían una disposición similar, tal vez la mayoría de los asesinatos en masa sin sentido de las víctimas inocentes que se producen a nivel nacional se podría haber evitado. Estoy a favor de la evaluación psicológica en el control de armas.

Leyes de control de armas nicaragüenses no dejan margen para los errores. Hay blanco y negro. Y si usted desea comprar un arma, es recomendable que estudies la ley cuidadosamente. (LEY N º 510 EL PRESIDENTE DE LA REPUBLICA DE NICARAGUA)

Asegúrese de que todos los documentos de compras sean autenticados por la agencia policial local antes de la compra.

Pero digamos que, comprado o tienes en tu posesión un arma de fuego; para el caso de un rifle que había sido transmitido de generación de la familia a otro. Usted decidió tener a su herencia familiar registrado por el cumplimiento del control de armas.

Así que te vas a tus Policías al Departamento de legalización y registro de armas.

El capitán a cargo, examina tu arma de fuego, una reliquia de la familia y pide la factura original de compra de hace unos 100 años y tu evaluación psicológica.

Debido a que sos incapaz de producir cualquiera de estos documentos, el funcionario encargado del control de armas determina el arma de fuego basada en la ley actual estaba fuera de cumplimiento y confisca el arma de destrucción y cita leyes de control de armas nicaragüenses. ‘La inscripción debe producirse dentro de los diez días de la compra. ”

Con destino a la destrucción

Tu herencia de la familia de más de 100 años está ahora obligado para el horno del crisol de la destrucción.

¿Le parece justo esta ley? ¿Sobre todo porque usted estaba en posesión de tu arma de fuego antes de estas leyes recién promulgadas?

Como se mencionó anteriormente, a cerca de las leyes de control de armas que son de color blanco y negro sin flexibilidad o prestación incorporada en la ley que le permite a la reparación de la toma de su herencia de la familia de antigüedades o para el caso de cualquier arma de fuego.

¿Qué dice esto acerca de la justicia de Nicaragua de las leyes y su Constitución, que se basa supuestamente en un fundamento democrático?

Por lo menos, en los Estados Unidos el poder de corregir su queja a través de un proceso judicial democrático, presenta pruebas y permitir que un juez determine su resultado legal. No es así con Nicarauga. Usted no tiene derechos en este sentido.

¿Por qué el gobierno de Nicaragua no permite este proceso democrático fundamental básico de leyes injustas percibidas desafiantes es alucinante y una farsa judicial.

Otro ejemplo de ello

Antes de las leyes de control de armas nicaragüenses He comprado una pistola Glock calibre 45. Es cierto y en retrospectiva no fue la compra de un loco. Ni mucho menos, nunca he tenido una pistola y decidí que quería una de todos modos y fui adelante con la compra.

Eso fue en el año 2001. Después de la compra, me la llevé a casa y la deje en la caja fuerte, donde se mantuvo bajo llave hasta el año 2003.

Supongo que ya sabes donde va esta historia ? Así es, me decido a legalizar mi arma de fuego después de tres años y hasta qué fui al departamento local de control y legalización de armas en Masaya.

Presenté mi pistola al capitán en el momento. Después de examinar mi documentación legal me preguntó por qué el arma no estaba registrada dentro de los requisitos legales obligatorios de 10 días. Le dije al capitán que no estaba al tanto de la ley, ya que estaba fuera del país durante este período de tiempo.

El capitán de la Policía de Masaya confiscó mi pistola al hacer el incumplimiento en el registro. Después me enteré que este capitán de la policía confiscó ilegalmente mi pistola y la de otras víctimas inocentes y que las vendían en el mercado negro. También me enteré de que estaba despedido por corrupción policial.

Leyes nicaragüenses inflexibles

Desde el año 2003 he buscado el retorno de mi pistola, la contratación de dos abogados de Nicaragua. Ambos abogados esencialmente robaron mi dinero bajo el falso pretexto de que mi arma sería devuelto.

Uno de los abogados que contrate estaba vinculado y además era un amigo del capitán de la policía destituidos por cargos de corrupción. Por desgracia, yo no soy el único número incalculable de víctimas inocentes de la corrupción de la policía de Nicaragua que no son capaces de recuperar las armas de fuego confiscadas ilegalmente y sin recursos legales. Es la ley ….

Una ley no los parece importarle o cambio

Esta experiencia en las leyes de Nicaragua, de toda apariencia externa, demuestra la falta de flexibilidad de las leyes nicaragüenses administrados sin justicia. Según lo anunciado, la policía nicaragüense se enorgullece de servir a sus ciudadanos con justicia y equidad. No se deje engañar.

En realidad, y en mi caso, al igual que con otras víctimas de la corrupción de la policía, además de los dos abogados que contraté que me aseguró de la imparcialidad judicial y el retorno de mi arma de fuego fue hecho bajo la apariencia de una identidad falsa.

Lo que no se dan cuenta de la exposición negativa y el mensaje enviado al pueblo de Nicaragua que va más allá de la búsqueda de justicia. Usted puede dejar de mirar …de ninguna manera . Este no es el caso …

Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen refuses to investigate charges of rape

Victim(s) statement to the Palo Alto Police

Victim(s) Maria Auxiliadora Moncada Flores, y Melissa Caceres Auxiliadora Moncada de Masatepe Nicaragua statement to the Palo Alto Police.

“El sospechoso violación a la víctima sobre una base diaria. El sospechoso ordenaría a tener relaciones sexuales. Si se negaba El sospechoso podría arrancarle la ropa y tener relaciones sexuales por la fuerza. La víctima sufrió una infección vaginal debido a violaciones repetidas y consiguió ayuda médica. El sospechoso amenaza con deportar a la víctima cada vez que ella se resiste “.

Dishonest Police and District Attorney’s

Jeff RosenThis is the stuff the Innocence Project should be all about. Getting at the truth before the conviction and providing support to those who find themselves faced with life in prison based on false police reports or coerced confessions perpetrated by Dishonest Police and District Attorney’s.

Heart wrenching stories of those found innocent and released from years of imprisonment can be found at the Innocence Project website.

The vast majority of those released from prison are the direct result of newly discovered DNA evidence pointing to an altogether different person or from coerced police confessions and evidence often times hidden from the defense by unscrupulous District Attorney’s for political gain.

One such cold case where the Palo Alto Police Department and the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office sits center stage, is their attempt to build and fabricate a rape charge with evidence they themselves invented and or coerced from their victims and whom they allowed to flee the country.

Massive vaginal infection

The alleged crime is detailed in an emergency protective order outlining repeated rape having caused a massive vaginal infection described by Chief Sex Detective April Chan-Wagner. April Chan-Wagner was lead investigator.

Later discovered through an intercepted medical report from the victims own doctor, was evidence the vaginal disease was not the result of any sexual assault, but rather a yeast infection. Exculpatory evidence April Chan-Wagner and the DA’s office have continued to ignore.

Had a sexual assault occurred, the medical profession is under clear legal responsibility to report any such crimes. The Chan-Wagner report indicates the victim sought medical assistance to bolster her claims to the DA of repeated rape and was used to justify a phone wiretap of the editors’ apartment.

April Chan-Wagner is no stranger to her specialty in the sex business. She headed up and promoted a newly enacted city ordinance in Palo Alto to curb what she felt was a haven for sex crimes taking place in the Palo Alto massage therapy profession and is also known for constitutional rights violations.

Although, charges never resulted in the arrest of the editor of the Palo Alto Free Press, charges still stand and will not be prosecuted “at this time” as detailed in an email received by Chief Prosecutor Daniel Okonkwo in charge of this case. In other words, their opened ended.

No interest in solving crime

Disturbing, is the fact that District Attorney Jeff Rosen has absolutely no interest in solving this alleged crime, a crime with the potential of sending away the suspect for life in prison.

We suspect the District Attorney is protecting the police in not disclosing the actual police reports and tactics used which may have included illegal coercion.

We beleive, coercion to be an unethical tactic often used by police as in the now City of Palo Alto Police infamous David E. Carlson and Jorge Hernandez cases, an all to common occurrence according to the Innocence Project in which the DA’s office and the Palo Alto Police Department would like us all to forget.

Selective Prosecutorial Discretion. It is a criminal act of knowingly providing a false police report. DA’s are obligated to prosecute. But many simply choose to look the other way. As in this case, with Jeff Rosen.

Comment section closed.  Those wishing to may send to editor@paloaltofreepress.com

Only First Amendment Happy Talkers Need Apply

Free SpeechAs I have always done before, in preparation for one of my worldwide expedition adventure, I clean out and go through many of my accumulated personal documents in the event of some unforeseen disaster.

I always leave instruction with #1 son to disallow the rummaging through of personal effects leaving some things, “For his eyes only”. I have two sons and since he’s #1, that task naturally falls on his shoulders.

While I examined that which would be shredded, and I highly recommend shredding rather that upsetting the EPA by blowing smoke up the chimney. What caught my eye was an oral communication document (1st Amendment Free Speech Application)

Communication Guidelines for Commissioners and Community members during Human Relations Commission Meeting.

“While we understand that you may be attending to express your opinions about an agenda item or an issue of concern to you, we ask that you refrain from clapping, shouting, booing, hissing, or other such BEHAVIOR that disturbs, disrupts, or impedes the orderly conduct of the meeting.

While we honor free speech we ask that you not use abusive language (i.e.; no profanities, obscenities, or threats.)”

I thought to myself before placing it in the shredder, that’s a bunch of “Bull Shit”…got to save that one.

The problems right off the bat is that the Palo Alto Human Relations Commission is trying to control Free Speech plain and simple. I mean what the fuck! And if you can’t see that, then something is gravely wrong with your thinking process in that we all live in a free democratic society that protects our First Amendment rights.  Let’s see if you or anyone else can deal with this decision….SOB’s

U.S. Supreme Court Decision in Schneider v. State, 308 U.S. 308 147 (1939)

“[I]t is a prized American privilege to speak one’s mind, although not always perfect good taste on all public institutions.” …..even the expression of “legislative preferences beliefs” [oral communications] cannot transform minor matters of public inconvenience or annoyance into substantive evils of sufficient weight to warrant the curtailment of liberty of expression.”…..

Who can argue with that? Well the Mayor and and everybody else in between. BTW,  Palo Alto Mayor Greg Scharff is an attorney educated and sworn to protect our constitution and yet he chastises the audience and speakers all the time to refrain from clapping I mean, all the time!  What give’s with that?

And we have yet another attorney, Molly Stump tasked with defending city employees, its mayor and city council from unwanted litigation has remained silent and has refuses to debate the rationale and logic behind its long held position of not allowing citizens to criticize our government officials unfettered and without bias, including clapping.

That’s “Bull Shit”. In our opinion Molly, Greg and the other two attorneys are making a mockery out of our constitution.

Our constitution forms the bedrock of all state and city municipality ordinances. Let’s get real.  The constitution trumps any city of Palo Alto ordinances, in regards to Free Speech and if disputed, should be made the subject of debate and remedy. Another guarantee afforded to all citizens, foreign and domestic when discriminated against.

We simply do not understand why city council, its mayor and its staff of attorneys are fearful of any debate.

The First Amendment was designed for the purpose of debate. Accordingly, in the following opinion, former Supreme Court Justice Brandies identifies fearful individuals unwilling to debate as “cowards.”

Whitney v. California 274 U.S. 357 374-777 (1927)

“Those who won our independence by revolution were not cowards. They did not fear political change. They did not exalt order at the cost of liberty. To courageous, self-reliant men, with confidence in the power of free and fearless reasoning applied through the process of popular government, no danger flowing from speech can be deemed clear and present, unless the incidence of the evil apprehended is so imminent that it may befall before there is opportunity for full discussion”.

Time and time again, members of the community who have come before city council to redress their grievances have been met with intimidation and stiff opposition and often rebuked when criticizing their elected politicians or the police.

My observations have been that if these same individuals were to come before city council with praises and clapping and singing, they are always embraced without distinction.

Those who come before city council with critical comments and speech are always made to feel that it’s only First Amendment happy talkers or speech that need apply.

Never in the history of the city of Palo Alto has the First Amendment been placed on the agenda. Maybe the time has come for all “cowards” to come forward and put to bed the city council’s reasons, within the confines of our Constitution, why we as citizens cannot criticize our public officials including clapping without being made to feel that our speech is on ice or bullied.

History and documented on-going patterns of First Amendment abuses by the city council of Palo Alto and the Palo Alto Police Department.

It’s time to put a stop to this rubbish!

Palo Alto unlocks online requests for public records

unlocking-public-recordsPalo Alto is making it easier for people to get their hands on government records.

The City of Palo Alto this week launched an online system to process requests in accordance with the California Public Records Act, which requires government agencies in the state to disclose records by request of the public.

“Palo Alto’s online CPRA request form and back-end system is live,” said Mr. Jonathan Reichental, the chief information officer of the City of Palo Alto, in a statement Saturday to the Palo Alto Free Press. “You can find it under the Services menu on the City homepage. It is also accessible via the City Clerk microsite.”

Public officials did not immediately respond to queries from the Palo Alto Free Press in regard to further detail on the new system.

The City of Palo Alto says on its website that the new platform helps to “avoid confusion and delay” when officials respond to requests for public records, but adds that the California Public Records Act declares no limit on the methods in which the public can submit requests. The statement does not confirm whether the public can continue making requests on paper.

Still, the move marks a significant step toward transparency for the city’s government, which in 2012 unveiled an open data platform. The recent addition to the city’s website allows the public to easily access census data, pavement condition ratings, tree locations, bike paths and other government records previously available through less convenient means. The platform supports an application programming interface (API), which lets developers use the data in third-party applications.

Mr. Reichental said in an interview with Mashable in July 2012 that the city hopes its efforts build public trust in government. “We’re starting at a place where we can build our expertise and take the community with us. They’ll give us strong, important feedback and we’ll go on this journey together,” said Mr. Reichental.

“We’re not just reinforcing expectation that government should provide services, but that it helps facilitate citizenship,” added Mr. Reichental.

The redaction and confidentiality of some of the information exchanged between public officials, however, remain protected under state law.

Here is a link to the city’s online submission form for requests of public records.

How America Is Solving Its Homeless Problem

The relentless assault on American Labor has resulted in record numbers of homeless people.  Assault on AmericaAccording to the Economic Policy Institute if the minimum wage had kept pace with the productivity growth over the last 35 years as it did for the twenty years prior to 1968 the minimum wage would be $18.67 per hour and the median wage would be $28.42 per hour instead of the $16.30 per hour workers currently receive. (1)

That extra $11.42 and $12.12 per hour of productivity went somewhere, where?

CEO pay grew 127 times faster than worker pay over the last 30 years despite workers doubling productivity over that same time period. (2)

Income for the top 20 percent of American workers has increased since the 1970s while income for the bottom 80 percent declined. In the 1970s the top 1 percent received 8% of total income while today they receive 18%. During the same period income for the bottom 20% had decreased 30%.

In the 1970s the top 0.1 % of Americans received 2 percent of total income. Today they get 8%.

In 1980 the average CEO made 50 time more money than the average worker while today the average CEO makes almost 300 time more than the average worker. (3)

49.7 million Americans live in poverty. (4)

From one end of the nations to the other, American cities are dealing with an inadequate supply of housing for the working class by sending those who fall off the bottom rung to jail or shelters.  Many shelters are shelters in name only and are more reflective of a nighttime jail.

Which one is the shelter and which one is the jail?

Shelter ThreeJail Two
Tampa Florida enacted a law a few weeks ago that makes it illegal to sleep or store personal belongings in public. (5)

Columbia South Carolina has criminalized the presence of homeless people in downtown while Palo Alto, California recently outlawed the use of vehicles by homeless individuals. (6) (7)

Being forced into shelters of substandard living conditions has a lot more in common with the segregation laws of the 1950s south and the Japanese Internment Camps during World War II. (8)

The general tune that you hear from homeless service providers, policy makers and the justice system is that people are homeless because they have substance abuse problems and or mental health issues.  This belief allows policy makers to blame homeless people for their circumstances while simultaneously avoiding the true cause of homelessness, a lack of housing.

26.2 percent, 79 million, of Americans suffer from mental illness and 6 percent, 18 million, of Americans suffer from serious mental illness. (9)  The 26.2% mental illness rate for all Americans was the same for those who were homeless across the nation on a given night in January 2010.  (10)

More than 22 million Americans age 12 and older – nearly 9% of the U.S. population – use illegal drugs, according to the government’s 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. (11) (12)

44%, 137 million, of Americans drink alcohol at least once a week. (13)  15% of the people living in the United States, 47 million Americans, are considered “problem drinkers,” according to the National Institutes of Health. (14)

34.7% of all sheltered adults who were homeless had chronic substance use issues which are higher than the 24% of the general population yet it is theorized that many people who do not suffer from substance abuse problems actually develop one as a result of and response to being homeless.  Thus the increase in substance abuse in the homeless population is directly related to the difficulties and despair of being homeless. (15)

There are only 1,600,000 people who endured a night of homelessness in 2009/2010.  On a single day in January 2012, 633,782 people were experiencing homelessness.  Only 110,000 people suffer from chronic homelessness.  (16)

If the primary reason why people become homeless was the result of mental illness and or substance abuse then there would be a minimum of 30 million people suffering homelessness in America yet there is at most 1,600,000 who endured one night of homelessness over the course of a year with the current daily average being 633,782.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration most Americans who are illicit drug users, 9.4 million in 2004, or heavy alcohol users, 10.6 million in 2004, also hold full-time jobs. (17)  This statistic obliterates the argument that people are homeless due to their own self-destructive decisions from mental health issues or of abusing mind altering substances.

125,000 families that are currently housed are at risk of becoming homeless not because of mental illness, drug or alcohol abuse but because of nation wide cuts to the federal Section 8 housing voucher program. (18)

“Because rents are so high, many of these families may, quite literally, find themselves out on the street as a result of these arbitrary budget cuts,” Stephen Norman, executive director of the King County Housing Authority, Washington State (19)

So in places like Columbia South Carolina, Tampa, Florida and Palo Alto, California people could literally go from an apartment to the street and then to jail because the government has removed them from the Section 8 rental assistance program.

If it weren’t for mom and dad allowing their grown children to live at home there could easily be 1.5 million more young adults who do not have a mental illness or substance abuse problem living on the streets subject to arrest for simply being homeless. (20)

If people are not homeless because of mental illnesses and substance abuse then why are they homeless?   Why do the homeless service providers, policy makers and law enforcement promote these erroneous reasons to the public as the cause of homelessness?

Answers, people are homeless because there is a shortage of housing created on purpose to maximize property values and the homeless service providers, policy makers and law enforcement industries all have a monetary incentive to create more homeless people not less.  By promoting these fallacies the special interest groups can mold public opinion away from the solution that would eliminate the vast majority of homelessness.

“In early 1984 on Good Morning America, Reagan defended himself against charges of callousness toward the poor in a classic blaming-the-victim statement saying that “people who are sleeping on the grates…the homeless…are homeless, you might say, by choice.” (21)

Anywhere from 30% to 44% of homeless people have a job, thus being unemployed isn’t the cause of homelessness necessarily. (22)

In the 1980s the proportion of the eligible poor who received federal housing subsidies declined. In 1970 there were 300,000 more low-cost rental units (6.5 million) than low-income renter households (6.2 million). By 1985 the number of low-cost units had fallen to 5.6 million, and the number of low-income renter households had grown to 8.9 million, a disparity of 3.3 million units. (23)

The cost of an emergency shelter bed funded by HUD’s Emergency Shelter Grants program is approximately $8,067 more than the average annual cost of a federal housing subsidy (Section 8 Housing Certificate). A recent HUD study found that the cost of providing emergency shelter to families is generally as much or more than the cost of placing them in transitional or permanent housing. (24)

The un-housed spend more time in jail or prison than the housed, which is tremendously costly to counties and states.  Often, time served is a result of laws specifically targeting the homeless population, including regulations against loitering, sleeping in cars, and begging.  Additionally since the homeless do not have private residences to drink alcohol upon as most people do they are disproportionally arrested for drinking in public compared to the general population.

Dr. Pamela Fischer, of Johns Hopkins University, studied the 1983 arrest records in Baltimore and found that homeless people are actually less likely to commit crimes against persons or property than housed people but more likely to commit non-violent and non-destructive crimes like loitering, sleeping in cars and parks, drinking in public, begging etc…(25)

A University of Texas study revealed that it costs $14,480 per year to house a homeless person in jail and $20,000 per year in prison. (26)

Next door to Palo Alto is San Mateo County that is attempting to obtain public funds to build a new jail that will house 576 to 832 people at a minimum cost of $165 million to build yet is likely to double to $330 million as a result of issuing bonds to finance the project. (27)

We need to house all those homeless people somewhere

China’s population is 1.344 billion and incarcerates 1,548,498 citizens, 118 people for every 100,000 citizens.  The United State’s population is 313million and incarcerates 2,193,798 citizens, 737 people for every 100,000 citizens. (28)

The extensive homeless population is the collateral damage of a faulty housing market and corrupted economic regulations.  These deleterious institutions are the mines that produce the human fuel for the prison industry as well.  In 2008 approximately one in every 31 adults (7.3 million) in the United States was behind bars, or on probation and parole.  (29)

prisonOver $74 Billion dollars a year is spent on the prison system. (30)   It costs approximately $47,102 per year to incarcerate one person in a California prison. (31)   It costs U.S. tax payers $9 billion a year to feed, house and clothe the people who are in jail waiting for trial who cannot afford bail. (32)

Why all this information on the prison system?  Because the faulty economic system that produces the majority of inmates is same faulty economic system that has produced the increased homeless population.  The judicial, jail and prison system is a $100 billion dollar industry and those that benefit financially form it: bail bondsman; deputy sheriffs;  prison guards; construction companies; doctors; lawyers; etc… do not want to upset the apple cart by resetting the economy to ensure that most Americans can earn a good living.

It is this same conflict of interest that prevents people who earn a living from the homeless service provider industry from criticizing the policy makers regarding the faulty housing market and corrupted economic system.

Homeless service providers receive much of their funding from the government and wealthy interest groups, interest groups that are the ones actually directing policy makers in government to enact certain laws and policies that benefit them financially.

If a homeless service provider were to publicly criticize the policy makers for failing to produce enough housing the policy makers and private interests will withhold funding from that homeless service provider and give it to another service provider who is willing to go along with the program.

Additionally, if enough housing were created the majority of the homeless population would disappear on its own rendering the homeless service providers as an obsolete and unnecessary industry.  Hence, the reasons why the homeless service providers continue to promote the fallacy of mental health/drug use as the primary causes to homelessness is to perpetuate their gravy train job security.

“We’re pretty good about not talking about income inequality,” Sheldon Danziger, a University of Michigan public policy professor. (33)

“There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”  Warren Buffett

The federal government’s multi-agency approach to help the homeless is often confused, according to a recently released report that catalogues the hundreds of different ways the government squanders taxes through waste, overlap, fragmentation and bureaucracy.

The Government Accountability Office report found that in 2009, federal agencies spent about $2.9 billion on more than 20 programs that targeted homelessness. If that money were to be targeted toward the building of homes, at say, $200,000 per home, it could theoretically produce 145,000 houses. (34) 

The two above industries, law enforcement/incarceration and service providers are small potatoes compared to the one which is directly responsible for the plethora of homeless and that is the real estate industry as a whole.  Property owners whether they be large corporations or the young couple who owns a single home have an inherent conflict of interest to producing a large supply of housing in close proximity to their low paying jobs when those low pay jobs exist in close proximity to expensive real estate.

The corporations and apartment owners are seeking to maximize lease amounts while the young couple wants to see the value of their house rise at an absurd rate to create a quick and substantial profit demonstrating that both have an inherent conflict of interest to producing a large supply of housing.

It is a case of supply and demand economics.  The housing market keeps the supply of housing low which creates a high demand and thereby enables the property owners to charge renters more money increasing profits.  In the case of home owners what historically was a lifetime investment is now a mechanism by which to sell for a profit within a few years and anything that would derail such a goal is to be squashed.

Federal Minimum Wage:   Pay before taxes  (40hrs per week)

1965            1.25        $200 per month

1970            1.60        $256 per month

1975            2.10        $336 per month

1980            3.10        $496 per month

1990            3.80        $608 per month

2000            5.15        $824 per month

2010/11       7.25     $1,160 Per month

One bedroom Apartment in Palo Alto

1965:       $87.50          to       $130.00

1970:       $115.00        to       $165.00

1975:       $125.00        to       $150.00

1980:       $385.00        to       $400.00

1990:       $600.00        to       $775.00

2000:       $1,200.00     to    $1,600.00

2011:       $1,100.00     to    $1,650.00

Percentage of a Single Person’s Minimum Wage Income

Used On Housing Cost

In 1965            43.5%   to  65.0%       of income to Housing Cost

In 1970            44.9%   to  64.4%       of income to Housing Cost

In 1975            37%      to  44.6%      of income to Housing Cost

In 1980            77.6%   to  80.%         of income to Housing Cost

In 1990            98.8%   to  127.4%     of income to Housing Cost

In 2000          145.6%   to  194.0%     of income to Housing Cost

In 2010/11       94.8%   to  142.2%     of income to Housing Cost

The Extortion of the Poor

A studio in Palo Alto typically goes for $1,400 a month in 2013.  Retail and grocery jobs generally pay $12.00 per hour if you’re lucky which equates to $2,100 a month before taxes.  After deducting federal and state taxes that amounts to roughly $1,900 a month which leaves $500 for food, health care and other expenses.

A person, John, is giving 74% of his/her income to a property owner just to have a box to sleep in.  Thirty hours of this person’s work week produces John zero lasting capital.

What does John do in response to being forced to hand over the fruit of his labor to someone else solely because the other person owns all of the land and refuses to build more housing, John moves into his van to keep the $1,400 for himself.  So what does the property owners and local business community do in response to John moving into his van to keep his hard earned money for himself, the property owners and business leaders lobby the local policy makers to make it illegal to sleep/live in a vehicle and thereby force John to move back into a wooden box and to hand over the majority of the fruit of his labor to the property owner, a person who has more money than he knows what to do with.

In any other circle we would call the above act extortion.

Duke Grad Student Lives in Van to Save Money:

In order to maintain their erroneously inflated property value and high rents property owners rely on the government to make up the difference between the underpaid worker or disabled person and the cost of rent through the Section 8 voucher program.

Due to a 1% vacancy rate the average one-bedroom apartment in Santa Clara County goes for $1,700 a month.  The current cap on the Section 8 voucher for Santa Clara County is $1,315 for a one bedroom which is considered the fair market rate but not necessarily what the market will bear.  This means that if a person finds an apartment for $1,315 the government will pay the landlord $854.75 while the tenant on the program will pay $460.25.  (35)

If there was a enough housing in Santa Clara County to create a 10% to 15% vacancy rate the cost of an average apartment could conceivably drop to $800 a month with the low end being around $500 a month.  This would enable the vast majority of people who rely on the Section 8 program to leave the program saving the government, tax payers, millions of dollars locally and billions of dollars nationally.

So the question is, why do we as a society refuse to demand larger supply of housing a surplus of housing?

Noted economist and columnist Robert Reich has called for an increase in the minimum wage to $9.00 per hour.

Increasing the minimum wage to $20.00 per hour will not solve the problem of affordable housing if the housing supply is not correspondingly increased as well.  If the minimum wage were increased 275% to $20.00 per hour the property owners would in turn increase their rents 275% negating any gain by the workers.  The gains in productivity would be shifted from the corporations through the workers and to the property owners resulting in zero benefit to the American worker.

Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Harry Truman, Bill Clinton and even Richard Nixon and George W. Bush acknowledged that private housing markets fail the poor by not providing housing for people with low incomes.

A caveat should be made regarding Homeless Service Providers.  The criticism directed toward Homeless Service Providers is strictly to those organizations whose budgets are bloated with staff salaries producing minimal impact at reducing the root causes of homelessness.  There are many local and national organizations that truly help the homeless lessening the difficulties and hardships incurred by the homeless without seeking self enrichment off of the existence of homelessness and without compromising the fundamental values of fairness in the economy and housing markets for self preservation.

What’s the Solution?

What do all of the pundits like to say, “we’ll you’re good at criticizing but you don’t provide any solutions.”  Well to satiate all of the pundits, here is at least one feasible solution.

There is one significant solution to homelessness and the exploitation of the American worker and that is to shrink the difference between income and the cost of housing.  The only way to shrink the gap between pay and housing cost is to increase the supply of affordable housing.  Attempting to solve the homeless problem without decreasing the housing costs of the 49 million Americans living in poverty will be a fruitless effort.

Palo Alto is a magnified microcosm problem of what is going on around the country from San Francisco to Tampa, Florida.

The people who worked in the retail shops and grocery stores in Palo Alto in 1975 used to be able to afford a studio or one bedroom apartment in Palo Alto without requiring any government subsidization.  If these people were enabled to secure housing in the town they work in by providing a surplus of affordable housing then the working poor would no longer need government housing assistance freeing that assistance up for the homeless who do not have jobs and or are disabled.

There are a number of people in Palo Alto who claim that if a person cannot afford to live in Palo Alto they need to move elsewhere even is said person works in Palo Alto.  The problem with that argument is that the cost of housing in the twenty miles adjacent to Palo Alto is not much different than Palo Alto.  When you factor in the cost of commuting upon those who can least afford to commute to work what little might be saved by living 30 to 40 miles away from Palo Alto would actually result in a greater cost than living in Palo Alto without commuting.

“What the Market will bear.” The problem with that assertion is that the Market is not bearing requiring the government to step in and provide food stamps and housing vouchers to people who are working full-time.

The policy makers, homeless service providers and law enforcement have to blame the homeless for being homeless because if they didn’t then they would be forced to address the true cause of homelessness and that is the exploitation of American through the use of a housing shortage.

The policy makers created the problem of homelessness through implementing bad policy in order to maximize profits for special interests.  Now that there is a homeless problem instead of implementing the solution, creating more housing, the policy makers would rather criminalize the homeless so that more special interests, the justice system and homeless service providers can make a gravy train living.

If people could go to work and reap the majority of the fruit of their labor without having to hand it over to property owners would these people have more reasons or fewer reasons to commit crimes?  If the homeless drunk was not drunk in public but on private property he wouldn’t be cited for being drunk in public.

By increasing a surplus of decent and affordable housing even if it requires the government to step in with money the government will save money in the end due to the reduction in jail and prison costs plus there is the immeasurable benefit of reducing the number of victims of crime.

With a significant reduction of crime, hundreds of thousands of attorneys, prosecutors/defense attorney will no longer be needed.  These attorneys use their connections to with the policy makers to ensure that their industry stays afloat through economic oppression and exploitation.

The current mindset in America is that if you work in a grocery store you don’t deserve to bear the fruit of your labor.  It is this mindset that needs to be flipped on its head.

The average American male has the ability to go into the woods, chop down some trees and create a very nice log cabin in three to sixTUMBLE WEED HOMES months of work.  Once his cabin is complete he no longer has to work on it and is now free to pursue all the other necessities of life and personal objectives.  This is how it should be for this is how it was.

In 1965 it took 4.5 years’ salary of a custodian to purchase a 2 bedroom house in Palo Alto, California.

In 1975 it took 8.5 years’ salary of a delivery driver to purchase a 3 bedroom house in Palo Alto, California.

In 2011 it takes it takes 40 to 54 years’ salary of a delivery driver to purchase a 3 bedroom house in Palo Alto, California.   (40)

If Abraham Lincoln were forced to work 30 to 40 hours a week on his cabin year after year then he would not have had the time to become an attorney.  If Lincoln did not become an attorney he would have never become President.  If he had not become President then he would have never issued the Emancipation Proclamation.  Lincoln was liberated from the slavery of housing so that he could liberate an entire race.

Some where along the way the property owners convinced the policy makers that people should have to work 30 hours a week on their housing indefinitely.  They have accomplished this by manipulating the housing economy into making housing much more expensive then it needs to be or should be.  By artificially making housing more expensive than what most people are capable to pay off in a few years the property owners have shackled the low wage earners to working on their housing for the entirety of their lives unnecessarily.

This is theft.  This is extortion.  This is slavery.

Broken ShacklesIt is time that the policy makers liberate the 100 million Americans who are enslaved to property owners.  In the 1800s they picked cotton, today they pour coffee and stock your produce.

Every person should be able to afford a decent place to live in the town and or city that they work.

The State of California already actually does this through the Housing Accountability Act Government Code Section 65580-65589.8. (41)

However there is no teeth to the law which enables city’s like Palo Alto to avoid providing housing for every person who works in its city forcing the low income workers to live as many as twenty miles away.

Section 8 housing just enables the property owners to maintain their unnecessary exorbitant rent.

I’m sure there are other formulas that would be more appropriate and work better however here is one as an example for food for thought.

Housing Mandate

Every city and or town shall provide a 5% surplus of housing based upon the number of jobs each city/town produces that pay the federal minimum wage up to 30% of each city’s/town’s median income separated into four average income levels as follows:

ONE:  Each city/ town shall produce a 5% surplus of housing for the total number of jobs within said city/town paying the federal minimum wage at full-time at a cost not to exceed 25% of the federal minimum wage paid out for full-time work, which is 166 hours a month;

TWO:  Each city/town shall produce a 5% surplus of housing of the average income of the bottom 5% of income earners based upon the jobs produced within each city’s/towns boundaries at a cost not to exceed 25% of the average of the bottom 5% of income earners within each city’s/town’s boundaries based upon full-time work which is 166 hours a month;

THREE:  Each city/town shall produce a 5% surplus of housing of the average income of the bottom 5.1% to the bottom 10% of income earners based upon the jobs produced within each city’s/towns boundaries at a cost not to exceed 25% of the average of the bottom 5.1% to 10% of income earners within each city’s/town’s boundaries based upon full-time work which is 166 hours a month;

FOUR:  Each city/town shall produce a 5% surplus of housing of the average income of the bottom 10.1% to the bottom 15% of income earners based upon the jobs produced within each city’s/towns boundaries at a cost not to exceed 25% of the average of the bottom 10.1% to 15% of income earners within each city’s/town’s boundaries based upon full-time work full-time work which is 166 hours a month;

FIVE:  Each city/town shall produce a 5% surplus of housing of the average income of the bottom 15.1% to the bottom 20% of income earners based upon the jobs produced within each city’s/towns boundaries at a cost not to exceed 25% of the average of the bottom 15.1% to 20% of income earners within each city’s/town’s boundaries based upon full-time work full-time work which is 166 hours a month;

SIX:  Each city/town shall produce a 5% surplus of housing of the average income of the bottom 20.1% to the bottom 25% of income earners based upon the jobs produced within each city’s/towns boundaries at a cost not to exceed 25% of the average of the bottom 20% to 20.1% of income earners within each city’s/town’s boundaries based upon full-time work full-time work which is 166 hours a month;

SEVEN:  Each city/town shall produce a 5% surplus of housing of the average income of the bottom 25.1% to the bottom 30% of income earners based upon the jobs produced within each city’s/towns boundaries at a cost not to exceed 25% of the average of the bottom 25.1% to 30% of income earners within each city’s/town’s boundaries based upon full-time work full-time work which is 166 hours a month.

For Example:

A)    If the average income of the bottom 5% of the median income of Palo Alto job earners is $1,700.00 per month and there are 1,000 jobs in Palo Alto that make up this income bracket then Palo Alto will need to provide 1,050 units of housing that cost no more than $425.00 per month.

B)    If the average income of the 5.1% to 10.0% of the median income of Palo Alto job earners is $2,400.00 per month and there are 1,000 jobs in Palo Alto that make up this income bracket then Palo Alto will need to provide 1,050 units of housing that cost no more than $600.00 per month.

C)    If the average income of the 25.1% to 30.0% of the median income of Palo Alto job earners is $3,600.00 per month and there are 1,000 jobs in Palo Alto that make up this income bracket then Palo Alto will need to provide 1,050 units of housing that cost no more than $900.00 per month.

Should any city/town fail to produce the above housing supply for its residents said city will be subject financial penalties which shall include but not be limited to federal conservatorship enabling eminent domain action to take place in order to secure the minimum housing requirements.

The excess in housing will drive down the cost of all other housing and open up housing for those homeless people who are on fixed incomes and or disability.

Mark Johnston, the acting assistant housing secretary for community planning and development, estimated that homelessness could be eliminated for a cost $20 billion annually. The housing department’s budget for addressing homelessness is currently about $1.9 billion. (37)

$20 billion is slightly less money than Americans spend on Christmas decorations, according to an analysis from ThinkProgress. (38)

National Security:

Cost of the War in Afghanistan: $654 billion

Cost of the War in Iraq: $814 billion

Money spent on Department of Defense for 2013 and counting: $488 billion

Money Spent on Homeland Security Since 9/11: $712 billion (39)

If we were to redefine Homelessness as a National Security Risk then $20 billion would look like a bargain.

 

SOURCES:

(1) (2) (3) (3B) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (11) (12) (13) (14) (15) (16) (16B) (16C) (17) (18) (19) (20) (21) (22) (22B) (22C) (23) (24) (25) (26) (27) (28) (29) (30) (31) (32) (33) (34) (35) (36) (37) (38) (38B) (39)

(40)   Palo Alto Housing Costs:

In 1965 a 2 bedroom house cost $23,000.00

In 1965 a 4 bedroom house cost $36,000.00

In 1965 a Machinist earned  $8,500.00  a year

In 1965 a Custodian earned $5,100.00 a year

A Machinist’s yearly salary was  37% of the cost of a 2 bedroom house.

A Machinist’s yearly salary was  23.6% of the cost of a 4 bedroom house.

A Custodian’s yearly salary was  22% of the cost of a 2 bedroom house.

A Custodian’s yearly salary was  14% of the cost of a 4 bedroom house.

In 1975 a 3 bedroom house cost $61,000.00

In 1975 a Delivery Driver earned $7,200.00

A Delivery Driver’s yearly salary was 11.8% of the cost of a medium quality house.

In 2011 a 3 bedroom house costs $1,200,000.00

In 2011 a Delivery Driver earned $22,000.00 to $30,000.00 a year

A Delivery Driver’s yearly salary is 1.8% to 2.5% of the cost of a low-end quality house.

A person’s yearly income of the cost of an average house in Palo Alto went from 22% to 11.8% to 2.5% of in the last 45 years.

References:   The “Palo Alto Times,”  the “Palo Alto Times-Tribune,” the “Palo Alto Weekly,” and “Craigslist”

 

(41)  California Government Code:  65589.5. (a) The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:

(1) The lack of housing, including emergency shelters, is a critical problem that threatens the economic, environmental, and social quality of life in California.

(2) California housing has become the most expensive in the nation. The excessive cost of the state’s housing supply is partially caused by activities and policies of many local governments that limit the approval of housing, increase the cost of land for housing, and require that high fees and exactions be paid by producers of housing.

(3) Among the consequences of those actions are discrimination against low-income and minority households, lack of housing to support employment growth, imbalance in jobs and housing, reduced mobility, urban sprawl, excessive commuting, and air quality deterioration.

(4) Many local governments do not give adequate attention to the economic, environmental, and social costs of decisions that result in disapproval of housing projects, reduction in density of housing projects, and excessive standards for housing projects.

65580.  The Legislature finds and declares as follows:

(a) The availability of housing is of vital statewide importance, and the early attainment of decent housing and a suitable living environment for every Californian, including farmworkers, is a priority of the highest order.

(b) The early attainment of this goal requires the cooperative participation of government and the private sector in an effort to expand housing opportunities and accommodate the housing needs of Californians of all economic levels.

(c) The provision of housing affordable to low- and moderate-income households requires the cooperation of all levels of government.

(d) Local and state governments have a responsibility to use the powers vested in them to facilitate the improvement and development of housing to make adequate provision for the housing needs of all economic segments of the community.

COMPLETE CODE HERE:  42

It’s All About The Shizit

An Open Letter to Ms. Liz Kniss

Liz KnissMs. Kniss:

On Saturday (9/14/12) you really hit the s**t at the League of Women Voters’ candidates’ debate. (But you are no Mrs. Robinson. I saw The Graduate 29 times and you are no Mrs. Robinson.)

But you sure did hit the shizit. You found the fecal, Friend. It’s all out there now. Talk about putting your business in the street! It’s on now! Yes, it is out, Scout.

Seriously, you performed a great service. You identified what may well be the essence of support for the Vehicle Habitation Ordinance (VHO) for at least some part of the commuity. You seem to speak for—to use your phrase—“The Personal Business Faction.”

One of the proper functions of a leader is to highlight and communicate the essence of an issue–what really matters—for members of the public.

As I understand you, you are saying that for those opposed to allowing people to be free to live in/out of vehicles the main, motivating concern is where/how/when vehicle campers toilet themselves.

Is there some reason to think that houseless people forget their toilet training? Or that we are not able to figure out where bathrooms are? Don’t people using parks or just doing their jobs or chores or out running errands have the same challenge?

It can be messy, but it’s much better to get it out rather than hold it in. If it’s about the s**t, I say let it ALL hang out! I praise you for calling it what it is. So it’s about people’s personal business. I think you hit the mother lode.

It’s not about po’ folk having the nerve to live out of vehicles–when everyone knows the NORMAL thing to do would be living out of over priced housing like most everyone else in sunny Palo Alto—it’s this big unknown, nagging question, “Where do these people s**t?”

(I keep wondering if the people who seem to want to take away our vehicles have thought through where they want us to go after we lose those vehicles. Their lawns? Downtown sidewalks? The low-cost and below-market-rate housing that the Association of Bay Area Governments is “shoving down our throats”? Oh, that’s right, such housing is heavily resisted and avoided whenever possible.)

And a very white-bread, middle-class concern this is—the defecation location question. And don’t white-bread, middle-class concerns have a right to be represented and heard?

Where/how/when do houseless people s**t? Let me first say to all people so concerned—and I speak on behalf of a wide swath of hoboes, houseless, and transients when I say it–“Thank you, for making our fecal matters the focus of your concern. Who knew you even cared?”

Let me assure you all that we all take care of our toileting issues much the way you all do, with just a little less convenience.  Maybe. For all I know, my bathroom issues may be less burdensome than yours.

You’d have to ask others who sleep in cars and on the ground to get a fuller picture, but it seems to me you just figure out somewhere you can use a toilet before you go to bed and go use it before you go to bed.

Thanks to the generosity of private Palo Alto residents, there are a number of bathrooms available 24/7 in the City, even though the City itself has a policy against allowing bathrooms in parks to be available at night. Sometimes the City builds parks purposely without bathrooms. Sometimes it just closes them at night. That’s another but related matter.

I’ve been houseless here in Palo Alto for three years this past July.  I slept in the tilt-back front seat of my car in the alley behind Happy Donuts for the first year.  I just went in Happy Donuts and used the bathroom there whenever I needed to.  There is also a bathroom Jim Davis is kind enough to leave open 24/7 in his Valero station on the corner of Los Robles and El Camino Real, just down the street from Happy Donuts.

And there’s another always-open bathroom in the Safeway on Middlefield that’s open all night.  That’s not an exhaustive list, but you get the idea.  There ARE bathrooms available.  There should be MORE bathrooms available–for us, for parents and grandparents who have to take their kids home from parks because there’s no bathroom there, for shoppers, bicyclists, walkers, seniors–just folks who might need one.

After my year in the front seat of my car in the alley behind Happy Donuts, I developed swollen lower legs. I slept out on the ground in a couple of secluded spots.

Then I went into the shelter in the Armory in Sunnyvale the following winter.  That is a fine program. I was reluctant at first. But after one night, I never left. Being able to sleep safe on a mattress on a flat floor was much better for my legs—much better than when they weren’t supported in my front seat.

After the Armory closed at the end of March, I slept outside again, but it was still kind of chilly. I’d get up in the middle of the night and go to the Coin Wash next to Happy Donuts and sleep on the folding table in the back. Almost no one washed clothes there after two a.m.

Eventually I applied and got into the Hotel de Zink where you rotate from one church to another for three months.  It’s also a fine shelter program.  Both the Armory and the Hotel de Zink had bathrooms, warmth, safety, and you could stretch out flat. Plus you got a meal every night and breakfast in the morning. In the Hotel de Zink you got lunch-making materials also.

Now I’m back sleeping in my car. I lost a bunch of weight and learned from a very tall unsheltered friend who asked if she could sleep on the front seat of my car one night that I could curl up on the back seat. At least my legs are on the same level with my heart, which the doctor says is mad important for heart health. I park near Happy Donuts and have the use of their bathroom again.

Others spend the night parked in their cars nearby. Happy Donuts is one of the great houseless resources on the Peninsula. It has drawn unhoused folks from San Jose to San Francisco who need a place to spend the night.  When you’re tired of riding the “Hotel 22″ (Number 22 VTA bus), you stumble in to Happy Donuts and spend the rest of the night with your head down on the table in front of you or hanging back over your chair or nodding. Or you stay up and watch movies or play games or do school work or read or research or have interesting conversations or write or work on projects for work or for your own startup or email or browse the web for whatever you’re interested in.

The Coin Wash next door is open 24/7 like Happy Donuts and you can watch TV there, do a laundry, read, or just sit. Sleeping there can get you awakened by some interesting people at all times of the night and early morning. After being chased out a half dozen times, I began to think I wasn’t welcome and just didn’t come back anymore.

But I digress from the focus on feces.

I looked into the issues bothering the Greenmeadow Neighborhood Association (GNA) about the people camping in cars and on the ground at Cubberley.  The GNA folks also said they were quite concerned about “defecating and urination” by the people there.

One night when I was sleeping there (on a rectangular table on the plaza behind the library), I found the Foothill College men’s room was open instead of locked as usual. It was a weekend night and there was a sign on the inside of the door saying that the bathroom was open on weekend nights.

Some checking with other car campers there revealed that the bathrooms WERE actually open on SOME weekend nights.  They were SUPPOSED to be open on ALL weekend nights (why not weekday nights also?), but when the weekend custodian was the one who didn’t like houseless folks, the bathrooms were NOT open.  On the weekends when the custodian who WAS a houseless “car camper” at Cubberley was working, he left the bathrooms unlocked.

But even though the bathrooms are usually locked, there’s still always a port-a-potty at the edge of parking lot where it meets the playing fields.

So, here was my proposal to the GNA, through their very friendly, very reasonable president Zachi Baharav:  Let’s work together on getting those bathrooms open EVERY night and then your concerns are answered AND those who live there can live a little more easily—more like YOU’D like to be able to if you found that your best option was to live in your vehicle parked in some semi-friendly location.

That was at least semi-reasonable, right? Would you believe Zachi was not able to find anyone who had toilet concerns who was also willing to meet, to discuss, or even correspond on the subject? I was quite amazed.

So, that’s why my hat is off to you, Ms. Kniss.  You popped the cork, opened the floodgates, called it what it is. I do thank you for making something that wasn’t so clear a lot clearer—just how basic this concern is.  And that it must be dealt with—it can’t be ignored just because it’s icky. You have shown the way.

My statement is:  we unsheltered take care of our s**t.  We (in general) use toilets whenever available and clean up after ourselves when they are not.  We take precautions and figure out where we can go when we need to go.

There really is not as great a problem here as you might think from hearing the concerns expressed.  I’ve smelled a lot worse streets in most other places I’ve lived. Also, there are certain sights and sounds that one experiences in any and every urban location–and in most places it’s getting more like that all the time. However, in Palo Alto the houseless population—at least at Cubberley– is not increasing.

For those caught in the jaws of the economic trap often referred to as the “greatest transfer of wealth from poor and working people to the wealthy in the history of this country,” there are certain dislocations in more than just regular housing. Convenient toilet access is not the only problem.

Decisions were made, countries were invaded, dead and dying are still multiplying.  Private enrichment at public expense has run riot and still rages on barely abated.  Wars–very, very expensive wars–were waged and not paid for.  Tax cuts were lavished on the populace and not paid for. Liar loans by investment banks (well, almost) were approved.

Wouldn’t it be awfully strange if those who’ve borne the brunt of the transfer of wealth didn’t show a sign or two of despair, poverty, and deprivation? Losing jobs, homes, vehicles (from lots of causes, not just anti-vehicle habitation ordinances)–all these lead to many dislocations—some physical, some psychological. Houseless people—poor people– have many pressures, worries, fears, and things to think about—where to use a toilet is only one of those concerns.

What are we going to do, Palo Alto?  Continue with the policy of “No Potties For the Poor” (So They Can Be Further Marginalized For Public Defecation?) like the mean custodian at Cubberley?  Or are you going to be like the good custodian at Cubberley and try to solve a “problem,” instead of exacerbate it?

Don’t be an exacerbater.  Open up the bathrooms. Cleanliness for all!

I ask you, Ms. Kniss, to take up this challenge. You’ve identified the issue, clarified the issue–now bring porcelain to the poor!  Help clean up this problem.  You were the first to call it by name.  Lead the crusade. Let a thousand toilets  flush!

Chuck Jagoda, Houseless Advocate

The Asphalt Jungle, Cubberley Community Center, The city under the city!

asphalt_jungleWe can’t imagine any of the actors having starred in this once famous movie becoming homeless and impoverished. I believe it would be safe to say that those associated with the movie industry are gainfully employed with movie gross receipts reported at an all time high.

The picture is quite different for a disturbing number of California unemployed, that number now topples over 1 Million.

Although claims are being made were on the road to recovery, with a drop in unemployment on a national level, and a solid boon recently reported in financial circles, has causes many to give way to a much needed sigh of relief.

However, left in the wake of what has been described as the worst depression in modern times, many, many continue to find themselves without a traditional place to reside. Having lost their jobs, homes and their savings accounts has forced countless numbers of unemployed families and others to look beyond an already heavily taxed social service system for subsidized housing assistance.

Faced with savings accounts depleted and no other emergency back-up recovery system in place and a dismal economic forecast despite favorable predictions, its now becoming a matter of the “survival of the fittest”. Survival, quite often means finding oneself and or whole families living on the streets across America, living in cars in what some have defined as living in an Asphalt Jungle.

A tent with a view
A tent with a view

A subculture known as vehicle dwellers. “The city under the city”. The exact number of vehicle dwellers nationally is unknown. However, here in Palo Alto, the number hovers around 100 as previously reported in the Wall Street Journal.

Living on the the streets of Palo Alto has been a thorny issue for years prompting one local newspaper to address the problem head-on in its editorial by Jay Thorwaldson; “It’s long past time to ban ‘vehicle dwelling'” and of recent, the editorial written by Dave Price of the Daily Post; Cubberley Shelter.

In our opinion, both editorials gave rise, not to the plight of the disenfranchised or unemployed but to a seemly conscious biased attitude of, “not in our neighborhood” driving home the point further by stating; “Palo Alto has a right, and responsibility, to protect the quality of life in its neighborhoods” All to reminiscent of the media’s bigotry displayed during the 20’s directed towards African-Americans and other minorities.

Disturbing is Palo Alto’s city council’s actions being planned against the homeless vehicle dwellers and in many ways no different today. Including the powerful words of Henry Dodson, the president of the Colored Citizens Club of Palo Alto saying;

“Shame on a race that…holds in its hands the wealth of the continent and yet, not only refuses to lift his less fortunate fellow man…but seeks through humiliating, illegal ordinances and discrimination to sink him to the lowest depths of ignorance and vice”.

The fact is, people need a safe place to live, to reside, even if it’s temporarily in their cars or otherwise.

Life in The Asphalt Jungle

Located on Middlefield Road, The Palo Alto Cubberley Community Center has become that safe haven or oasis for approximately 18 vehicle and shopping cart dwellers that occupy the rear parking lots and hallways on any given night according to Alfredo Padeilla from Monterrey Mexico who has lived on the Cubberley campus for the past 18 months hoping to locate long lost relatives.

Alfredo Padeilla
Alfredo Padeilla

I asked Alfredo what life has become for him while living in this small city within a city. For the most part, living on campus is “uneventful” he stated, he’s happy and he feels his basic needs of food, shelter and clothing are cared for.

But, more importantly he feels safe. And in the 18 months living on campus he hasn’t witnessed any crime or violence. He did mention the Armories, which are used for temporary housing will be closing at the end of March. So he expects to see an increase in campus population. BTW Mr. Padeilla holds a BS degree in Anthropology.

I interviewed Adam Howard, supervisor for the City of Palo Alto who currently manages the Cubberley Community Center to describe his observations and concerns of life for homeless on campus and what he feels to be the real pressing issues. “Mental health”; he stated, “We just don’t have the proper services available to care for them”.

Aside from the occasional complaint of people sleeping in the front doorways or human waste found occasionally on the hallways, life on campus is like any other small city. Its status quo. When asked if he was aware of reported drug or alcohol related problems on campus, he was aware of police being called out, but not aware of the exact numbers.

Reported crime on campus

According to an email received from Lt. Zach Perron, media spokesperson for the Palo Alto police department, outlines some interesting statics on the number of police calls for service on the Cubberely campus.

He states;  “In 2012, the police department responded to 173 calls for service at Cubberley Community Center.  In 2011, that number was 200.

In 2010, that number was 210. Those numbers include any call for service at 4000 Middlefield Road (i.e., suspicious people, medical calls, missing people, theft reports, auto burglaries, etc.), either in one of the buildings or in one of the parking lots, to which a police officer or animal control officer responded.”

Our officers will respond to calls of suspected criminal activity at Cubberley (like we will do anywhere in town, of course) and only take appropriate enforcement action if a municipal code or state law is being violated.  Every call is evaluated on a case-by-case basis with the information available to the officers on scene.”

For the moment vehicle dwellers will remain

Vehicle Habitation
Vehicle Habitation

The city of Palo Alto for the moment is the only city that does not prohibit vehicle dwellers from sleeping in their cars. In fact, Palo Alto vehicle dwellers received a reprieve to a planned proposal which would outright ban vehicle dwellers from inhabiting our streets.  City council voted against the proposal by the Policy and Services Committee in a vote 3 to 1 back in November of last year.

However, the uncertainty and future of this ban still remains unclear.  Lt. Perron further adds; “Since any proposed vehicle habitation ordinance is still under consideration from City Council based in part on input from City staff, there is currently no municipal code in effect that prohibits anyone from sleeping in their vehicle overnight anywhere in Palo Alto.”

So for the moment, it’s a wait and see, based on community input, and the police we may add, which will determine the continued fate of; “The Asphalt Jungle-Cubberley Community Center-The city under the city!”

Los Altos Police Department Press Release

PURSUANT TO GOVT CODE SECT 6254 (f)

Los Altos Police Department

Press Information Office

1 N. San Antonio Road, Los Altos, CA 94022

Ph: (650) 947-2821    Fax: (650) 947-2704

TYPE OF CRIME: ROBBERY CASE NUMBER: 130529-1415

LOCATION: 1001 FREMONT AVE DATE: 05/31/2013 TIME: 11:45 AM

SUSPECT: Thomas Andrew Cronin AGE: 26

DETAILS:

On May 29, 2013, at about 10:18 AM, a robbery occurred at U.S. Bank located at 1001 Fremont Avenue, Los Altos. The suspect entered through the front door of the bank and approached a teller. The suspect displayed a handgun, demanded money from the teller and obtained an undisclosed amount of cash. A witness observed the suspect fleeing and provided a vehicle description for responding officers. Officers located a vehicle matching the description provided by the witness, near the intersection of Rosita Avenue and Anderson Court in Los Altos. Officers stopped the vehicle and detained the single occupant. The driver, identified as 26-year-old Thomas Andrew Cronin of Los Altos, was arrested at the scene of the car stop. Cronin was booked at the Santa Clara County Main Jail on one count of robbery.

During this investigation, Los Altos Police Detectives were able to link Thomas Cronin to several other recent robberies in Los Altos. Today, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office filed seven additional counts of robbery pertaining to the following crimes:

February 2, 2013: Robbery at Standard Liquors, 303 First Street, Los Altos
February 11, 2013: Robbery at Bank of the West, 176 Main Street, Los Altos
March 6, 2013: Robbery at Comerica Bank, 275 Third Street, Los Altos
March 19, 2013: Robbery at Standard Liquors, 303 First Street, Los Altos
April 11, 2013: Robbery at Comerica Bank, 275 Third Street, Los Altos
May 13, 2013: Robbery at Shell Gas, 929 Fremont Avenue, Los Altos
May 17, 2013: Robbery at Round Table Pizza, 399 First Street, Los Altos

Anyone with any information pertaining to these crimes is encouraged to contact the Los Altos Police Department Investigative Services Division at (650) 947-2770. Press inquiries may be directed to Captain Andy Galea at (650) 947-2770

BY: S. McCrossin AUTHORIZED BY: A. Galea
DATE: 05/31/2013 DATE: 05/31/2013 TIME: 11:45 AM

SUSPECT Thomas Andrew Cronin AGE 26