City of Palo Alto begins cigarette butt cleanup

The city of Palo Alto will soon require all businesses to report how many employees they have and provide other data, but the information could also be used for other purposes, such as the possible ban on selling cigarettes, according to Kim Torke, acting environmental services division director.

City council members and city employees such as economic development manager Tom Fehrenbach have said information collected by the registry would be mostly used to help the city gather information to solve parking and traffic problems downtown.

The information could also be used for disaster preparedness, business marketing, compliance with rules about water conservation, economic development and land use decisions, a report to city council from city manager James Keane said.

At its meeting Tuesday, the council members, with Greg Scharff and Liz kniss absent, voted to move ahead with creating the registry. All businesses would be required to pay a fee from $35 to $75 annually to support information collecting program.

But at the end of a report presented to counsel with a list of potential questions that businesses would be asked, such as: “does the business store hazardous materials or generate hazardous waste?”. “Does the business perform automobile repairs? “and “(does the business) sell tobacco products?”

Councilman Larry Klein told the Post earlier this week that he wouldn’t support the questionnaire asking those questions, because he and other council members wanted to limit it to a short, four or five question form.

Smoking ban

Torke told the Post that his office had asked that the question about cigarettes be added because the council had asked him to look at expanding the city’s current smoking ban in the downtown and California Avenue area.

The city already bans smoking within 25 feet of entrances to public buildings. Eventually, he said, it could help them ban the sale of cigarettes at places such as pharmacies and grocery stores.

Torke said it helps to have the information for people who would be affected by the ban so that the city can go talk to them about it in advance.

image

The city could already get the same information by going to the Board of Equalization, which licenses businesses to sell tobacco. But Torke, said it would just be more convenient to have it all on one form.

The sample questions also included inquiry about whether businesses use plastic pellets, which are used to make plastic products a rarity in Palo Alto.

Torke said that state water inspectors have asked for such information before when they check on the city’s operation, because the pellets can get into storm drains and eventually the ocean.

He said that state inspectors ask other cities to get information on their business registries. When the Post looked at the business license applications of the Menlo Park, Mountain View and Redwood City, none had questions about plastic pellets or cigarettes.

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$250,000 To buy new shopping cart homes and other services for the homeless

Shopping cart home.jpgOn Monday, Palo Alto city Council will decide whether to spend $250,000 to house 20 of the cities estimated 157 homeless. But how will caseworkers pick [and chose] which 20 get new homes?

It won’t be based on good [up standing] behavior. In fact it’s just the opposite.

A report by [homeless “de facto” expert and] City Manager Jim Keene to council says those who will get priority in the selection process are those who had had the most run-ins with the law and are at risk of being repeat offenders.

In addition to the $250,000 from the city Santa Clara County will provide $100,000 from a state grant under the [pension] prison [reform] realignment bill, which sends state prisoners to county jails to relieve [themselves plus] overcrowding.

And state money is earmarked for helping those who have been arrested, have a high chance of being arrested again, who “significantly impact county, state, or local resources,” and who are “homeless or at risk of being or becoming homeless.”

‘Chronically homeless’

According to a report, the “chronically [acute] homeless” individuals can use the assistance to get themselves into a [new cart] home and, with the help of a [mental basket without wheels] caseworker, will apply for government programs, get help for substance abuse and receive medical care.

“These will be prioritized for individuals who face significant barriers to achieving economic self sufficiency,” the report states.

The program was recommended by a city task force [be with you] comprised of [toothless] homeless advocates [without a bite who will gum you to death], which formed in August shortly after the [technically advanced city] council voted to ban car camping and camping at Cubberley Community Center [along with taking away their ability to shower themselves.]

The task force considered other options such as creating a “homeless outreach [‘and put the touch on someone’ team,” which has already been successfully implemented in the San Mateo County cities of San Mateo, [our] East Palo Alto [brothers from the hood] and Redwood City, and bears some resemblance to the proposed Palo Alto program.

Helping biggest troublemakers

Mila Zelkah, strategic relations fellow for InVision Shelter Network, which manages the apartments at Palo Alto’s Opportunity Center, told the post in August that the outreach team program focuses on helping the people who cause of the most problems and are the source of repeat calls to police.

During its first year, the program helped 40% of the people on the police [hit] list of troublemakers to either get a job, find housing, enroll in a substance abuse program or a mental health program.

In it’s second year and the years after that, the program successfully helped about 25% of it’s homeless clients Zelkha said, adding that San Mateo County recently set aside more money to bring the program to Pacifica and South San Francisco.

When council members on the Policy and Services Committee voted to recommend dedicating $250,000 to help the homeless, they asked the homelessness task force to decide how the money could be best spent.

But the [helpless] task force was only given about a month to organize and come up with the plan that’s going to the full [circle marry-go-round] council on Monday.

Zilkha said that the force [be with you] had planned ask for more [spatial] time at a Sept. 26 meeting with City Manager James Keene, but wasn’t able to after he [dodged and] canceled the meeting.

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City of Palo Alto to implement soft plan itinerary on jailing the homeless

interiorgilkisonvanNow that the city of Palo Alto has ban car camping overnight camping at Cubberley Community Center, where many homeless stay the night, the next question is what will the enforcement look like?

The car camping ban goes into effect Sept. 19, though it won’t be enforced for 90 days, and the Cubberley ban is likely to begin Oct. 19.

How will police enforcement?

Palo Alto Chief Communications Officer Claudia Keith said that the city has not yet made any special plans for the days when the laws first going to affect, despite the possible difficulty of getting some homeless who have been living at the center for months or years to leave.

She added that the city is trying to let homeless campers who live at the center know that they have to leave through police and those who work for the city’s Downtown Streets Team, which organizes homeless volunteers to clean streets.

For the past four weeks, Palo Alto police have sent extra patrols to Cubberley to walk the grounds during the evening and night.

At a city Council Policy and Services Committee meeting on Aug.13, Capt. Ron Watson said that the city was spending $3,500 in overtime costs every week just on the Cubberley patrol.

At the same meeting, Watson said that over the past weeks, police had counted 30 homeless sleeping outside at the community center and 20 people camping in their cars.

But when Oct.10 rolls around, none of those people will be able to get into Cubberley to sleep, because the city will close the entrance to the parking lots between 10:30 p.m. and sunrise, according to Keith.

While the law to close Cubberley, as well as Lucie Stern Community Center, would go into effect exactly 31 days after being approved on Sept 9, the car camping ban will be phased in more slowly.

‘Grace period” planned

Beginning on Sept. 19, there will be a 60-day “Grace period,” when people who are still camping in their cars will only be spoken to by police, Keith said.

That will be followed by a 30-day time period during which car campers will be given warnings.  Soon after that, however, police will have the ability to cite both car campers and those who are found at the community centers with misdemeanors, which could result in as many as six months in jail and maximum $1,000 fine.

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Living in Vehicles Ordinance

Palo Alto City Council to declare “de facto” martial law hours on the homeless

De facto homeless lawsPalo Alto’s Cubberley Community Center, which city manager James Keene called a “de facto homeless shelter,” could soon be closed to the public after 10:30 p.m in an attempt stop camping of any sort on campus.

Extra policing of ‘de facto homeless shelter’ costs city $3,000 week

A city council subcommittee proposed the closure last night and said the city should also consider spend $250,000 on new homeless programs.

The recommendation by the policy and services committee follows the Council’s controversial August 5 vote to ban car camping and an announcement last week the city plans to close the public showers at Cubberley by August 31.

Policing the the homeless in Palo Alto
Policing the the homeless costs in Palo Alto to skyrocket

The idea to close the campus at night came as Capt. police Ron Watson told the panel, which consists of councilmembers Larry Klein, Liz kiss, Karen Holman and Gail Price, that the city is spending an additional $3,500 a week to police the area.

The amount of money that could be earmarked for helping the homeless does not include $7,000 that has already been spent by the police department, or the funds that will be likely be spent in the coming weeks on extra policing.

Watson, who spoke on behalf of police at the meeting, said that the department has assigned officers to police the community center between midnight and 6 a.m. each day for the past two weeks and will likely continue to do so for at least two more.

At that rate, the additional police force needed at Cubberely will cost the city $14,000 a month.

As Klein proposed that the dual solution be recommended to the city Council, he said that he believed the homeless deserve help and compassion but shouldn’t have “more rights” than anyone else.

“The homeless have the same rights as other citizens, and we also need to express compassion for the other residents of our  community. But the homeless do not have more rights than the rest of us -none of us has the right to declare or make Cubberley or any other community center into a homeless shelter.”

Klein’s motion was supported by Price and Kniss and opposed by Holman, who wanted even more restrictions and policing Cubberley and other community centers.

It recommends that the city spent $150,000 on the homeless outreach team and $100,000 over two years on a county-run, case-management program to help some of the homeless people find housing.

It also proposed that it be illegal for anyone to be at Cubberley for any other community center between 10:30 p.m and sunrise.

When he addressed the Council, Watson said that at one point during the past two weeks, police had counted 30 homeless sleeping outside at Cubberley and 20 people camping in their cars.

Recent police patrols there however, seem to have diminished the numbers of campers somewhat.

Echoing homeless advocates, Watson said that many people live at the center peacefully, but some present a serious danger.

“A small number of those people are in fact creating some significant problems. It’s almost like the more time we spend down there the more we see of this,” he said.

Watson mentioned that police have arrested a woman with baggies full of methamphetamine, and said “she was probably selling it.”

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Living in Vehicles Ordinance

InnVision Shelter Network’s proposal for Palo Alto’s Homeless community

Homeless cart of terror for one Palo Alto resident
Homeless cart of terror for one Palo Alto resident

InnVision Shelter Network (IVSN) is proposing a comprehensive plan to both **ameliorate the homeless encampments at Cubberley Community Center, as well as implement modified approaches to engage and ultimately house homeless individuals throughout Palo Alto.

If implemented, outreach case management will target homeless individuals residing at the Cubberley campus in conjunction with a recommended City of Palo Alto night closure of campus facilities and grounds, with the ultimate goal of dramatically reducing the overnight and day-time presence of homeless individuals at the center, a successful outreach to a broader unsheltered population, and significant efforts undertaken to help to secure permanent exits from homelessness for the target population throughout Palo Alto.

This proposal concerns the immediate undertaking (within 15 days of contract award) of engagement and census efforts at Cubberley Community Center in response to the City of Palo Alto’s imminent closure of bathroom facilities on site.

Initially, via the use of peer counselors and small incentives, experienced IVSN Outreach Case Managers will work to obtain an accurate census of all Cubberley unsheltered and vehicularly-housed occupants.  During this engagement process, the target population will also be educated concerning case management, shower, food, and laundry opportunities at the Opportunity Services Center.

The plan further delineated has several components, including the establishment of a city-centric Palo Alto Homeless Outreach Team (HOT), the enhancement of services at the Opportunity Services Center, the implementation of a Beyond the Streets Homeless Connect, and a potential temporary expansion of emergency shelter beds to meet the specific demand.  IVSN has an extensive track record in working collaboratively toward creating permanent exits from homelessness.

BACKGROUND

InnVision Shelter Network (IVSN) is the leading provider of shelter/housing and supportive services across Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Peninsula.  IVSN operates over 18 major sites from San Jose to Daly City, providing emergency, transitional, and permanent supportive housing, along with a breadth of supportive resources to help clients secure a place to call home.  The organization serves thousands of homeless clients annually through its “Beyond the Bed” service model – a proven methodology that has historically delivered a 90% success rate in returning program graduates to permanent housing and self sufficiency.

Within Palo Alto, IVSN operates The Opportunity Services Center and various programs and services throughout the Palo Alto community including the Breaking Bread hot meals program, the Food Closet, and Hotel de Zink, the only Emergency Shelter in Palo Alto founded over two decades ago. With the recent 2012 merger of the former Shelter Network and InnVision organizations, there is a significant opportunity to apply best practices and organizational support to the success of existing programs and new initiatives.

METHODS

In the preparation of this concept paper, a team of IVSN outreach staff conducted a preliminary assessment of the Cubberley campus, the current homeless population in residence, and existing IVSN homeless services in Palo Alto.

COMPONENTS OF THE PLAN PALO ALTO HOMELESS OUTREACH TEAM (HOT)

The establishment of a city-centric Palo Alto Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) will serve to engage, case manage, transport, and ultimately secure housing for the most difficult to serve homeless residents (individuals with mental health and substance abuse challenges, individuals who have been residing on the street for extended periods of time and are resistant to services, etc). Comprised of IVSN staff, key public stakeholders and community partners, the team will focus first on individuals at the Cubberley site, and then expand their geographic scope to other homeless residents of Palo Alto.

a) Beginning within 15 days and completing within 30 days of contract award, the HOT team of experienced IVSN Outreach Case Managers will develop a census of Cubberley residents, seeking to discern whether residents are in need of substance abuse recovery services, mental health services, and whether they have family either in the area or in other places in California or throughout the nation.  During this engagement process, the target population will also be educated concerning case management, shower, food, and laundry opportunities at the Opportunity Services Center.

b) IVSN plans to solicit the participation of multiple community stakeholders in Palo Alto HOT.

c) HOT will work to develop an individually tailored Needs and Services Plan for each resident at Cubberley.  This may occur during one-on-one outreach sessions, at the Beyond the Streets Homeless Connect at the Opportunity Services Center, or at outreach events that will be convened at Cubberley for especially resistant and entrenched individuals.

d) Critically, HOT staff will have a vehicle to transport Cubberley residents to the OSC, and shelters in San Jose, including IVSN’s Montgomery Street and Julian Street Inns. IVSN has successfully implemented HOT programming in East Palo Alto, The City of San Mateo, and Redwood City. The program has recently received awards to expand HOT programming to Half Moon Bay, Pacifica, and South San Francisco.

ENHANCING SERVICES AT THE OPPORTUNITY SERVICES CENTER

In order to meaningfully increase program effectiveness at the OSC (i.e., increase the rate at which homeless individuals transition from the streets to shelter and ultimately, to permanent housing), staffing and service enhancements will be implemented.  Current staffing allows only for the provision of a safe environment and safety net services.  Proposed enhancements include:

a) Intensified case management: Intensified case-management services will be implemented to more effectively transition unsheltered homeless people into shelter and other housing opportunities. With bolstered staffing, case managers will be able to work with each OSC client to set and work towards long-term goals (housing, financial stability, improved health/mental health, etc.).

IVSN Outreach Case Managers understand that homeless encampments most frequently have some members who may be employed, may choose to live in their vehicles because of cost efficiency, and who may not be addicted or seriously mentally ill. These individuals pose unique challenges, as they may not be in need of behavioral or primary health care services. Although these individuals may not pose risk or undue nuisance factors to the community, they also must be assisted in transitioning out of Cubberley (or other areas unsuitable for vehicular or unsheltered housing). IVSN is experienced in negotiating with these individuals and circumstances.

b) Intensely structured life skills workshops:  A day services coordinator will organize a full calendar of daily workshops, including Project Read, GED classes, legal services, computer classes, and resume development and landlord negotiation.  Attendance will be high as a result of incentivizing program participation, and close case management by HOT staff.

c) A behavioral health services program:

a. The OSC will become a hub of mental health and substance abuse recovery programming.

The bulk of the labor will be provided by IVSN graduate-level mental health interns. These students will provide therapy and link clients with critical psychiatric and substance abuse recovery programming.  On-site 12-step meetings will also be convened.

b. Primary care services will be enhanced with behavioral health, and specifically, psychiatric care.

c. Given that a significant majority of both Cubberley and other street homeless in Palo Alto may be addicted to alcohol and illicit drugs, a determination will be made concerning whether same-day access to drug treatment is available through SCC Gateway, or whether IVSN will secure DADP certification to operate outpatient drug treatment services onsite at the OSC.

d. IVSN seeks to collaborate with a community partner that would be able to provide advocacy and mental health evaluations for SSI/SSDI applicants at the OSC

e. IVSN seeks to collaborate with a community partner that would be able to offer Wellness Groups at the OSC followed by individual one-on-one office hours focusing on recovering from the trauma of homelessness

d) Continuum of services to engage individuals discharged from hospitals, jails, etc: Homeless individuals exiting institutions, especially emergency rooms, psychiatric and primary care hospitals and jails, present unique opportunities for engagement.

Persons reentering the community are most frequently sober and open to linkage to services.  IVSN will work with existing partners of both IVSN and of the City of Palo Alto, as well as the Day Services Coordinator, to insure that individuals exiting services are successfully engaged and do not just return to the streets. It should be noted that frequent users of Cubberley may also be frequent users of the criminal justice system and medical facilities.

BEYOND THE STREETS HOMELESS CONNECT

The Opportunity Services Center (OSC), HOT staff, and community partners will plan and convene a twoday “Beyond the Streets” Homeless Connect event at OSC.  All night homeless residents of Cubberley will be given a voucher redeemable for $25 cash, as well as small incentives, for participating in a tour, screening and assessment at the OSC.  The cash incentive will encourage strong participation of Cubberley homeless in the event.

The HOT Outreach Case Managers will distribute numbered vouchers as they gather Cubberley census data.  Although the Beyond the Streets event will be open to and target homeless individuals throughout Palo Alto, only Cubberley residents will offered the $25 incentive to participate in programming (other homeless individuals will be provided other incentives, including a barbecue lunch).

HOTEL DE ZINK LIMITED PROGRAM EXPANSION

IVSN operates Hotel de Zink, a 15 bed rotating church shelter for single adults. Upon the funding of this initiative, IVSN will work with the faith-based community hosts to temporarily increase the number of beds in the Hotel de Zink program, so that no unsheltered homeless individuals who wish to access this service are denied the opportunity. Hotel de Zink has a track record of transitioning unsheltered individuals to permanent housing.

JOB DEVELOPMENT

Through building connections with local businesses and landlords, IVSN seeks a collaborative partnership with multiple community agencies that will provide our clients with the opportunity to secure and maintain steady employment and permanent housing. Clients who are capable of working but have experienced long periods of unemployment, and who would otherwise be applying for SSI/SSDI, will instead be matched with jobs suited to their mental and physical capabilities. This will empower our clients to earn their own money and achieve a level of self-reliance while saving valuable public resources.

Utilizing IVSN’s full-time Job Development Specialist along with partner agencies’ Peer

Counselors, the Job Development Collaborative will seek out large employers, such as Walmart, Kmart, and San Francisco airport hotels, as well as small employers, including local restaurants and gas stations. Together with hiring managers and human resources offices, the Job Development Collaborative will identify or create positions that will mutually benefit the employer and our clients.

COMMUNITY AWARENESS

IVSN will engage in community outreach, attending meetings of local, civic, and community groups to provide information, PR and outreach to the residents of City of Palo Alto surrounding homelessness at Cubberley Community Center.

BUDGET

IVSN has the infrastructure necessary and a successful track record of implementing complex and challenging projects on-time and within budget.  A complete project budget is attached.

GOALS

1. A census of Cubberley residents will account for a minimum of 80% of Cubberley residents.

2. A minimum of 90% of Cubberley homeless will participate in the two day Beyond the Streets event.

3. Within the first 6 months of contract award, 20% of Cubberley residents will secure permanent, permanent supportive, or other appropriate housing options.

4. Within a year of contract award, 40% of Cubberley residents will secure permanent, permanent supportive, or other appropriate housing options.

**To make something bad or unsatisfactory better

City of Palo Alto to shutter homeless public showers

de facto homeless shelter shower facility
de facto homeless shelter shower facility

Palo Alto will close down the public showers at the Cubberely Community Center in an attempt to regain control of what city manager Jim Keene has called a “de facto homeless shelter.”

City Council members will meet with homeless advocates and church leaders Tuesday to talk about how to help the homeless now that the city has ban sleeping cars, but Keene said yesterday that no matter what, the free showers will end on August 31.

In a report to the committee, Keene said the showers are one of the key attractions make Cubberely a magnet for homeless car campers.

Despite the emotional and sometimes disruptive protests of homeless advocates who said the car can ban criminalizes homelessness,  the city Council voted 7-2 on Monday to ban the practice.

The ban,  which will take effect in approximately six months, with make vehicle habitation a crimes that would be prosecuted as a misdemeanor. The meeting on Tuesday is meant to take a less punitive look at ways to help the local homeless population.

In the meantime, through, some steps could be taken to help solve problems that residents and Cubberley workers have complained about, including closing the showers that have been opened in the early morning four years so that the homeless can bathe there.

In 2004, some of the homeless who camped at Cubberley asked the facility workers there to open the showers at 6 a.m. so that they could shower before work.

After the city received complaints from some of the nonprofits and businesses that use Cubberely, the hours were shortened from  6 a.m. – 10 a.m. to 6 a.m. – 8 a.m.

Not an official program

“The use of the showers is neither a formal city of Palo Alto program nor an official policy, and staff has set a closure date for public use of Aug. 31, “Keene wrote in the report to the committee.”The closure does not require action by the council.”

Later, the report says, “specific complaints have centered on individuals or groups of individuals intoxicated, lawn chairs that are set up next to RV’s, loud music coming from the parking lot on weekends, syringe needles found around campus, and encounters with half-dressed people going to the showers in the morning.”

Keene said that there was also concern with people peeing and defecating in the open, dumping sewage in the bathroom sinks, cleaning cooking utensils in bathroom sink, and fights in the bathrooms and showers, among other things.

The committee, which includes council members Karen Holman, Larry Klein, Liz Kniss, and Gail Price, will also consider closing the bathrooms at Cubberely for part of the night between 10:30 p.m. and sunrise during the time that about 20 people or more sleep at the center every evening.

“As Cubberely is currently open overnight, staff is concerned for the safety and security of the Cubberely patriots, tenants, staff and individuals residing on campus,” the report says.

Help for the homeless

According to the report, Keene proposes that the city immediately start closing the showers, give people bus fare to go use the showers at the Opportunity Center and put them in touch with case managers.

At Monday’s meeting, Councilwoman Liz Kniss and Keene both called on nonprofits and churches to help the city deal with homelessness.

“I would challenge the nonprofits to come forward and say, here is how we can put this together,” Kniss said.

Edie Keating, a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church who opposes the car camping ban that the city Council voted to pass on Monday night, said she and people representing other churches planned to attend Tuesday meeting to see how they can work with the city and local nonprofits like InVision, which runs the low income housing at Palo Alto’s homeless center.

Roaming shelter program

Keating said her church will be hosting the city’s roaming homeless shelter program, Hotel de Zink, for the month of September, and said she thinks expanding the program might be one way to help the homeless.

“I think there’s a possibility there, we’ve never had any problems with the Hotel de Zinks.” But she added that she understands why it might be hard for some churches to get their members to agree to host the month-long shelter program at their church.

“Since many churches are in residential areas, there may be push-back for using their sites as part of a distributed car camping program,” she said. “What will be important is to find sites that are well-accepted, some of them might be at businesses.”

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Living in Vehicles Ordinance

Lights out at Cubberley Community Center – Homeless vehicle dwellers need not apply

In a decision last-night that shook the homeless of Cubberley Community Center also known as Palo Alto’s “de facto homeless shelter”, Vehicle dwellers will no longer be able to sleep in their cars or vans in a vote, 2 against and 7 for the ban on vehicle habitation.

The long two year battle some say has just begun with one local attorney William Safford vowing to represent any vehicle dweller faced with penalties at no charge if homeless vehicle dwellers are cited under the new Palo Alto city ordinance. A charging offense of a misdemeanor under the new law and California Penal Code.

Judge LaDoris H. Cordell (Ret.)
Judge LaDoris H. Cordell (Ret.)

Strong passions were evident as those opposed to the ordinance stepped up to the microphone pleading with council-members for compassion and to look for other solutions rather than taking away their shelter and the security of their vehicles.

Concerns for personal safety

However, many of the residence of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, which boarders Cubberley Community Community Campus, express their concerns for personal safety as a result of the growing homeless population.  They feared for their safety and as one person related, even beginning to feel “paranoid”.

Councilmen Larry Klein a staunch supporter of the ban was determined to restore safety to the area and felt it was his moral obligation to do so. Liz Kniss another supporter of the ban challenged the faith based and non-profit communities to lend greater assist in finding additional solutions and out-reach services for the homeless community.

Sealed fate of Vehicle Dwellers

What sealed the fate of the vehicles dwellers were perhaps the personal tours provided by the Palo Alto police in where they discovered by way of license plate checks that many of the vehicles were not even registered with Palo Alto addresses giving rise and support that Palo Alto was in fact becoming a magnet for the homeless.

This personalized police tour uncovered 27 vehicles’ and 15 people sleeping in sleeping bags. Gail Price stated that homelessness is ‘one of the biggest social issues facing our nation’ but felt the ordinance was necessary.

The ordinance she said would not be a single action but that she would be looking for the “next” steps in helping the homeless population in Palo Alto.

Soft roll-out of vehicle habitation ordinance

Our concerns are, as the city of Palo Alto roles out there phased approach in helping the homeless and homeless vehicle dwellers that the Palo Alto police will be rousting out the homeless vehicle dwellers from their cars and sleeping bags at all hours with what they feel is “probable cause” to search their vehicles and personal possessions under the ruse of a “welfare check” as the city implements this new ordinance.

One homeless vehicle dweller, Diane Jones living in her vehicle since last November on Cubberley campus say’s she has been harassed at all hours by the PAPD knocking on her windows. “They knock and pound at the doors and windows and we “can’t get any rest”.  Our question is, who’s going to police the police on reported bad behavior on their part?

Living in Vehicles Ordinance

Related articles: Palo Alto to Decide Whether Sleeping in Car Should Result in Jail Sentence

Cubberley Shelter, Editorial by Dave Price

Dave Price Editor and Co-Founder of The Daily Post
Dave Price Editor and Co-Founder of The Daily Post

One of the most shocking local stories in the past few days was how Palo Alto’s Community Cubberley Community center is becoming, in the words of city manager James Keene, a “de facto homeless shelter”.

The Cubberley parking lot is where car campers spend the night. They’re attracted by the bathrooms and showers at the city run community center. This was one of the observations made at a City Council policy and services committee meeting on Tuesday.

At the end of the meeting, in a 2-1 vote, the committee sent to the full council recommendation that the city ban sleeping in cars, something Mountain View, Menlo Park and Redwood City did years ago.

When it reaches counsel, you can bet that homeless advocates will fill the chambers, making dramatic presentations about how such a ban “criminalizes the poor.”

Every time the issue of homelessness comes before Council, the comments at the microphone are emotional, and the meeting becomes a show.

After an emotional outpouring against a proposal to ban car camping occurred at a July 18, 2011, council meeting, Keene shelved the idea and tried alternatives. One idea was to ask the city’s 42 churches to open their parking lots to car campers.

Two churches took the city up on the offer: University Lutheran Church at Stanford Avenue and Bowdoin Street and First Presbyterian Church at Copper Street and Lincoln Avenue.

But pressure from neighbors caused First Pres to back off.  I understand the desire to ban car camping I wouldn’t want a camper parked in front of my house either.

That’s scary to a family with kids. And I certainly wouldn’t want car campers using my yard as their restroom. On the other hand, the streets belong to all of us.

If you’re down on your luck, and all you’ve got is your car, it’s extreme to say you can’t park that vehicle on a public street overnight.

Seeking a middle ground

How about we ban campers from residential streets, but allow them to park for no more than 72 hours in commercial areas where there are no homes? Palo Alto has miles and miles of such streets.

I don’t have a solution to the bathroom/shower question. It’s not the city taxpayers’ responsibility to provide bathrooms and showers. But restaurant owners, who are required by law to provide bathrooms, shouldn’t have to cater to the homeless either. Maybe the Opportunity Center on Encina Avenue would come to the rescue?

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