$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

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

City of Palo Alto on a collision course with homeless vehicle dwellers

Cutting edge of technologyPalo Alto often is on the cutting edge, and the first city to try anything. But when it comes to the proposed ban on living or sleeping in cars that goes to City Council tonight, Palo Alto is late to the party.

In Santa Clara County, 12 cities prohibit people from living for sleeping in their vehicles, while Monte Sereno and Los Altos do not. In San Mateo County, 18 cities have such ordinances, while only East Palo Alto, Colma and Portola Valley don’t. Menlo Park prohibiting overnight parking on residential streets, which effectively bans car camping.

Redwood City police Sgt. Greg Farley said the city doesn’t have an ordinance specifically banning people from sleeping in their vehicles. But he said police will knock on the door and charges up to the discretion of the officers. Typically a warning will be given, he said.

Farley said people usually move on or stay awake. If a vehicle citation is given, the first time there is a fine of $100, the second time it’s a $200 and each time after that it goes to $500, be said.

Farley said the city doesn’t receive many complaints about people living in their cars. Typically police come across commuters who pulled over off the highway to sleep.

The Kmart parking lot on veterans Boulevard is where police typically find people living in cars, but with Kaiser now taking a portion of the lot, the numbers have gone down, Farley said.

Menlo Park police Sgt. Matthew Ortega said the city has no particular ordinance for people living in their cars. But cars can’t be parked on residential streets or within 300 feet of residential zones between 2 AM and 5 AM., Ortega said. Residents have to park in their driveway or have a permit to park on the street, he said.

If a car is parked on the street during this time and person is in the car or nearby, he said the police would first ask them to move, but they could be cited for a parking infraction, which is a minimum of $25 for the first time.

At other times during the day, Ortega said police would not stop, if the car is parked legally, for a person in a car, except to maybe make a welfare check.

Ortega is aware of Palo Alto’s proposed ordinance, and he said Menlo Park may “steal” it, if and when it is passed.

Los Altos police Sgt. Cameron Shearer said that the city doesn’t have a ordinance saying a person cannot sleep in his car.

You can’t park here

There is an ordinance saying no one can stop or park a car on any street for longer than 30 minutes between the hours of 2 AM and 6 AM if there is notice posted on the block.

But Shearer said he is not aware of anywhere in the city that this is currently posted.

The number of complaints police receive regarding people sleeping in their cars is minimal, Shearer said. If police do come across someone in their vehicle for a long time, they trying to make sure the person is OK and is receiving social services, if needed, he said.

Mountain View police did not return calls Friday, but the city does have an ordnance stating no one can live in a car park on the street in residential areas.

If Palo Alto’s ordinance passes tonight, police response to people living in vehicles will be mostly complained driven, according to city officials.

It will be up to the discretion of the police officer as to whether to issue a warning for arrest and offender, but police will try to match people living in their cars with the services needed.

City attorney Molly Stump previously told the Post that a violation could result in a misdemeanor charge, but that’s “pretty far down the road.” The penalty for a misdemeanor is a fine up to $1,000 or up to six months in jail.

Court costs

Former Santa Clara County public defender Aram James, an opponent of the car camping ban, said that based on  his calculations, using a study completed by a legal industry trade publication, a trial for just one case, if a person were arrested for living in his car, could cost taxpayers to $10,000 a day.

James said this is money that could be spent on solutions to homelessness. He also said the number of cases that could arise from an ordinance, such as the one proposed in Palo Alto, could overburden the criminal justice system and the public defender office in Santa Clara County.

Calls to the public defender office we’re not returned last week. If council approves the ordinance banning car camping, a second we will occur no less than 11 days after the first reading.

The ordinance will go into effect 30 days after the reading, but the City Council’s Policy and Services Committee, which is made up of four council members, has recommended a phased approach that defers full enforcement for six months.

Living in Vehicles Ordinance

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Palo Alto vehicle dwellers face potential jail time set aside in secret from original report

Van DwellingA proposed ban on sleeping in cars going before Palo Alto City Council on Monday doesn’t say that a violation would be a misdemeanor charge, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or six months in jail, but the city attorney confirmed this yesterday.

The proposed ordinance banning the “human of habitation vehicles,” which is 365 words on two pages, makes no mention of the penalty. And the penalty isn’t mentioned in City Manager James Keene’s report to City Council in advance of Monday’s meeting.

Parking violations in Palo Alto Municipal Code are infractions, a step below a misdemeanor, which only results in a fine and no possibility of jail. City officials yesterday downplayed the misdemeanor aspect of the proposed ban, saying arrests would be a last resort.

Officers to use discretion

City Attorney Molly Stump said a violation could result in a misdemeanor charge, but that “pretty far down the road.” She said the decision to arrest an offender is something that is up to the discretion of the police officer, but police will try to match people who are living in their cars with the services needed.

The Post wanted to talk to Palo Alto police about the proposed ordinance . But police said  that all questions would have to be directed to the city’s Chief Communication Officer Claudia Keith. Initially yesterday, Keith didn’t know for sure if the ordinance was a misdemeanor, and she said she have to do some close “checking.”

Then the Post reached City Attorney Stump, who was able to confirm that while the ordinance going before council on Monday doesn’t mention a penalty, it is a misdemeanor under the Municipal Code.

Stump said when a complaint of someone living in their the car is received, police officers will respond based on the facts in each situation. She said it isn’t possible to provide one blanket penalty for all situations.

City officials are “aware that many individuals living in vehicles there may be extenuating economic, mental or physical health issues that are difficult to overcome and that may be best addressed by one or more of the local social services providers,” Keene said in his report.

Living in Vehicles Ordinance

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Just Say No To Palo Alto’s Proposed Vehicle Habitation Ban

interiorgilkisonvanOn August 5, 2013 the city council will consider passing an ordinance that would criminalize living in one’s vehicle here in Palo Alto. If passed and enacted… the anti-vehicle dweller ordinance would carry, upon conviction …for its violation…up to 6 months in the county jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

After it appeared that the city had abandoned the proposed ordinance, after a nearly 1 ½ year battle (July 2011 thru November 2012), between homeless activists and the city government … a reconfigured city council (beginning in January 2013), with newly elected city council person Liz Kniss, a recently termed out member of the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, and former mayor and city council member in Palo Alto… leading the charge on steroids, to yet again attempt to foist this draconian, hate filled legislation down the throats of the good people of this community.

Prosecutions under this proposed ordinance would have extremely adverse consequences on an already overburdened criminal justice system…here in Santa Clara County.

Given the innocuous nature of the conduct that can trigger charges under this new law, judges, juries and public defenders (who would be charged with defending the bulk of these cases), are all likely to be extraordinarily displeased to see these cases substantially increase their case loads, flood their courtrooms and drain very limited judicial resources that are needed to defend and prosecuted the huge number of serious cases .

Trial of just one such case, in the courts of this county—will cost in the neighborhood of  $10,000 a day, monies clearly better spent in finding permanent solutions to homelessness.

Each case charged under this law—preventing people with no other choice from living in their car—will be defended by raising the very time consuming, complex and expensive “Defense of Necessity.” See: Defense of Necessity in homeless cases:

Other viable defenses to charges brought under this ordinance would include: discriminatory enforcement, outrageous government conduct, and defense by way of juries exercising their inherent power to vote not guilty despite a clear violation of the law—because the jury concludes i.e., that a particular law is morally repugnant i.e., such as prosecuting member of the homeless and car dwelling community for the most de minimis conduct. For more on Jury Nullification

Outside of Palo Alto City Hall is King Plaza–named in January of 2008–in honor of Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King.

On a plaque in their honor displayed in King Plaza, are the following two quotes, both extraordinarily relevant to the campaign to convince at least 5 members of the Palo Alto city council…to vote in opposition to the proposed ordinance:

(1) “Somewhere we must come to see that social progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless effort and persistent work of dedicated individuals; and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the primitive forces of social stagnation and irrational emotionalism. We must realize that the time is always ripe to do right.” Martin Luther King from Stanford University in 1967.

(2)”The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members…a heart of grace and a soul generated by love.” Speech at Georgia State University in 2000 by Coretta Scott King.

This year, in April… our current city council… by a 6-0 vote, gave City Manager James Keene.. the discretion to raise the banner for gay pride … as well as pass a resolution recognizing that 76 percent of voters in the city rejected Proposition 8, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman.  Rainbow Flag will fly in Palo Alto.

In this same article, current Mayor Greg Scharff is quoted as follows: “This is the civil rights issue of our time.” “I see no possible argument why people should not be allowed to marry whoever they wish.”

I believe the same arguments and logic can be applied to the struggle to end homelessness here in Palo Alto and across this country. It is incontrovertible that the fight to end homelessness, is equally the civil rights issue of our time. To state otherwise requires a total denial of the facts surrounding the current crisis re homelessness in this country.

I can think of no greater irony and hypocrisy than for the city of Palo Alto and its city council and government who pride themselves for honoring the civil rights struggles of the 1960’s…and the more recent civil rights struggle for gay rights, to now pass an ordinance–contrary to every notion of civil rights and equal protection of the law, a law, that if passes demonizes, marginalizes, and criminalizes…the most vulnerable among us…the unhoused and vehicle dwellers.

The arc of justice in this country is fluid, but leave no doubt, bends towards more not less justice and toward more not less civil rights for the homeless.

In just the last two years Rhode Island and Connecticut have passed Homeless Person’s Bill of Rights. Many other states will soon follow with similar legislation…outlawing the very type of ordinance our Palo Alto City Council is threatening to pass and enact.

In the end… the only right, moral and constitutionally appropriate action to take…is to table this misguided and mean-spirited proposed vehicle habitation ordinance forever!

Anyone who opposes this ordinance, stands for justice.and is unwilling to tolerate a hate law targeted at the most vulnerable members of our community, should attend the city council meeting on Monday August 5th, to speak-out  and voice your opposition to this unconscionable proposed hate law.

Living in Vehicles Ordinance

How Cubberley spun out of control

Homeless Van belonging to retired school teacher
Homeless Van belonging to retired school teacher

The growing “de facto homeless shelter” at Cubberley Community Center appears to be in large part created by the accommodating approach of Palo Alto facilities managers, public showers, and the closure of other places where the homeless used to camp.

On Tuesday during a council committee discussion about car camping, City Manager Jim Keene said that Cubberley workers had told him the community center was becoming an ill-equipped homeless shelter.

The Council committee’s decision that night to recommend a ban on car camping to the full council was at least in part a reaction to a recent increase in the number of people camping out nightly at Cubberley and the corresponding number of complaints, such as the one resident Sherry Listgarten sent to the Council on Saturday.

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

In her e-mail she expressed “dismay” that the city “is taking this center, which has so many well-used children’s services, and turned it into a homeless shelter.” Listgarten said that her daughter “who has never been scared if anything,” was now afraid to sit at the Cubberley library because all of the homeless there.

In many cases, residents call police to complain about the homeless. Police Chief Dennis Burns said Tuesday that there were 39 complaints about the homeless at Cubberley in 2012, up from 16 2011.

On Monday night, Burns told the council committee that police officers who walked around Cubberley found 13 people sleeping outside and 20 people sleeping in cars. That’s more than there used to be, according Kathy Espinoza-Howard, who was the division manager at Cubberley and Palo Alto’s Human Services Division from 2004 until 2009.

Espinoza-Howard told the Post that when she managed the community center, which was a high school until 1979, then became a community center that leases spaces to variety of nonprofits, there were generally about three or four people sleeping in their cars on a given night, and only a few more sleeping outside.

Alfredo Padeilla a frequent shower user
Alfredo Padeilla a frequent shower user

Espinoza-Howard said that in 2004 some of those homeless people asked her to open the showers at an early hour, at around 6 a.m., so that they could take showers before they went to work. Since there were janitors who arrived at 5 a.m., she agreed.

At that time, she said, the Opportunity Center at 33 Encina Ave. hadn’t been opened, and there was nowhere else in town for the homeless to bathe.

Open since 2006, the $24 million Opportunities Center has provided help and housing for the homeless. But according to Jill Dawson who works for the center’s managing nonprofit, InVision, free showers and laundry rooms there are only open between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. when many working people may be unable to go.

Fights, drugs, prostitution

When she managed Cubberley, Espinoza-Howard said, she saw problems in the bathrooms similar to those that are being reported today including fights, drug use and at least once, prostitution.

But when that would happen, Espinoza-Howard said, she would shut down the showers.

“It’s all about setting boundaries for people. We were very strict about behavior in the showers. We would tell them, we treat  this facility with respect or there will be no showers,” Espinoza-Howard said yesterday.

Espinoza-Howard said she would also tell people sleeping outside that they had to move after giving them a list of shelters or trying to help them get into one herself.

Keeping the homeless problem from getting out of hand, she said, was like caring for a garden. “It’s just like weeding your garden. You have to keep on it and keep on it and keep on it.”

That kind of “weeding” is no longer going on, according to Rob de Geus, the assistant director of the Community Services Department.

De Geus said that in the four years he’s been managing Cubberley, he’ has never asked people to leave, including the car campers who overstay the 72 hours that Palo Alto allows a car to be parked in the same spot.

Once a week, someone from a local nonprofit walks the campus and gives information about local shelters and services to the homeless, but that’s about it.

Complaints roll in

De Geus said that he believes the recent increase in homeless camping at Cubberley has to do with the closure of the Mitchell Park Library and the Lucie Stern Community Center, where homeless used to camp but can’t now because of ongoing renovations.

“In the last couple of years we’ve certainly seen an increase in that population,” de Geus said, “and we regularly have issues with the showers and get complaints. We’re hearing from folks every week.”

De Geus also said that he hears complaints about homeless who sometimes try to camp in classrooms that need to be locked for the night or go into rooms with catered events and take food.

Cubberley Shower Facilities and so called "Steamroom"
Cubberley Shower Facilities and so called “steam room”

Other times, people go into the bathrooms and turn on all the showers to create a “steam room” or wash clothes or cooking utensils there.

“We care about these people and they need food and a place to stay. The problem is that Cubberley doesn’t have those services that they really need,” he said.

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Vehicle Habitation plan, flawed from the beginning?

Cracked eggAfter many years of kicking around this issue, the current city council may decide the fate of hundreds, while the few bad apples will never be affected, honest working class people will be affected, and not for the better. The problems being brought up by those demanding an ordinance will not disappear, because the problems were never caused by car dwellers, but by other categories of people.

The issue at hand is the Vehicle Habitation Ordinance.  This issue has not been resolved although it has come up many times in the past in  city counsel meetings.  Interest groups, faith based churches, and a working group composed of concerned clergy, city staff and CCT members had over 10 months to work on a plan, yet when it reached the policy and services committee it quickly fizzed out.

The two sides of this issue are:

1. Human rights Advocates who do not want more government interference in our lives and more power given to the police in this society where freedom reigns.

2. People of means who do not want their peace and well being infringed upon by those of lesser means.  The demeanor of this group seems to be: “Not in my neighborhood” they pay high taxes to live in Palo Alto and they don’t want to even see one homeless person or car dweller loitering around and feel that this permissive agenda by Palo Alto is just not acceptable.

The city wants to solve the problem by pushing the car dwellers onto the Service Providers. Shelter Network is not equipped to handle yet another 55 to 100 who have needs far different than street people who have lost all their self esteem, and therefore can be treated in any fashion the service provider deems necessary.  Car dwellers are accustomed  to making their own decisions, they are more independent than street people, some of them hold down a low wage job.

The service  provider has a set of standards that most car dwellers do not fit into, and they will not amend these set of standards to qualify for their services.

Service providers exist to get funding and getting results is not imperative to them so they do the least  possible because obtaining funding is their primary goal, not finding shelter for the homeless, regardless of their claims. Their results are largely undocumented because failure to achieve is not a good thing to bring about.

Failure of the city government to grasp a clean understanding of the issue is apparent, so the issue remains an issue because nobody has actually determined the root cause of car dwelling and suggested that the root cause be treated instead the symptoms are being experimented with, leading to quick fix solutions.

It has become evident to us that Palo Alto City Council will not spend one dime on “homeless tramps” while supporting Downtown Streets team who are running a economic slavery scheme paying their recruits less than minimum wage and saving the city millions, so the city is happy to get “free labor”.

The Caste System being created by the current attitudes of “Palo Alto affluent” will enable the affluent to keep up their lifestyle at the expense of the impoverished, while supporting a Feudal type concept.

The Barons kept the peasants in line while the Kings lived a life of plenty.  It is not imaginary because that is what we are headed for if this ordinance is passed in Palo alto.  It is time we take heed to the philosophy of Martin Luther King “Free at last, Free at last, Free at last” instead of “oppress me more, oppress me more, oppress me more”.

Does Palo Alto have an obligation to those of no financial means? No city has an obligation to any certain group of people, whether wealthy or not, instead the city may want to be a role model to other municipalities simply because it’s the right thing to do. When there are billionaire developers wanting special favors from local politicians, the pressures to abide by the wants of the affluent may carry more clout than some group of human rights advocates.

We, however hold onto a glimmer of hope that those decision  makers on the city council will see the opportunity to do something positive which will appease both sides and create a real solution. Stanford university social services professor should be consulted, and this resource may come up with a real solution.

Giving the police to power to decide the fate of a category of people is surely NOT THE ANSWER. Poverty shall not be a crime in the United States of America.

Casting democracy to the wind on the homeless in Palo Alto

democracydeadDemocracy was cast to the wind this evening leaving its citizens voices dead on arrival.  The Policy and Service Committee clearly became a Politburo rather then a democratically elected body in its decision to not listen to the citizens it serves.  The last time I looked the citizens of Palo Alto were clearly in charge.  Not anymore!

Despite an overwhelming community disapproval displayed during oral communications, the council took upon itself and decided to move forward with the proposed ban making it a misdemeanor for those found inhabiting or living in their vehicle a six month jail sentence if found guilty as noted by former Santa Clara County Public Defender Aram James.

Just the first round

Attorney Aram James
Attorney Aram James

For many in attendance it was what appeared to be a crushing defeat for homeless rights.  Not so this is just the first round says Aram James a long time Palo Alto resident and attorney. He relates;

“Folks don’t hold your heads down! Tonight was just the 1st round, the opening arguments.  The politicians just played their best hand in full public view like discovery in a criminal trial we (the public) now know their best arguments–very weak at best.

Nearly thirty members of the public spoke all but two oppose this ugly draconian ordinance. Now’s the time to redouble our efforts–the full jury has not yet spoken!! Now we organize remember our weapons, jury nullification, and the defense of necessity, discriminatory enforcement and defenses to this ordinance only limited by our imagination!!!

No jury of 12 citizens will ever convict for violation of this immoral proposed ordinance!! The community united will never be defeated by self-serving politicians. It’s time to fight back elect members of the un-housed community–including vehicle dweller–to our city council”.

One thing is for sure the homeless advocates were out in force from PhD’s, lawyers, physiologists to the homeless vehicle dwellers just as predicted in the Daily Post. They really put on a “show”.

Mr. Price in his editorial seamed to vilify the homeless but if it were his newspaper racks on the line I’m sure he would be whistling a different tune. After all it’s the First Amendment he’s so proud about first and not the horrible state of homelessness on a national level.

Hopefully in round two community voices will rise to the occasion once again when full council is set to bless the ordinance so as to defeat this draconian ordinance and attack on the homeless once and for all.

Suggested legal defense strategies:

Tobe v. City of Santa Ana (1995)

In re Eichorn (1998) 69 Cal. App. 4th 382 [81 Cal. Rptr. 2d 535]

Implementation of the necessity defense in case of criminalization of homelessness

Necessary Defense from ending the threat of nuclear war

Why a fundamental understanding of jury nullification is so critical to taking back our criminal justice system

Gideon v. Wainwright – 372 U.S. 335 (1963)

Past historic Palo Alto Police soft interactions with Vehicle Dweller

Palo Alto settles Taser suit for $35K