Palo Alto proceeds cautiously on tackling homelessness

City Council approves one-time $250,000 payment for housing subsidies

Palo Alto took a small step toward tackling a colossal problem Monday night when officials agreed to spend $250,000 on shelter and case managers for 20 homeless individuals.

By an 8-0 vote, with Mayor Greg Scharff absent, the City Council approved a staff recommendation to partner with the Santa Clara County on a "housing first" approach toward the local homeless population. Council members agreed that this two-year pilot program will, at best, put only a small dent on the problem of homeless. But given the city's lack of experience as a homeless-service provider, they stopped short of making any other further commitments in this effort.

"The message is: This is a one-time thing. We'll see where we go from here," Councilman Larry Klein said during the Monday discussion.

The initiative was triggered by a recent council decisions to ban vehicle dwelling throughout the city and to keep Cubberley Community Center closed at night. The center had become what officials refer to as a "de facto homeless shelter," prompting complaints from area residents about an increase in crime and a lack of real services to serve the homeless population. In September, when the council voted to keep Cubberley and other community centers closed after 10:30 p.m., members coupled the restriction with a pledge to spend $250,000 on homeless services.

They proceeded to do so Monday, pledging to work with Santa Clara County on getting the most at-risk homeless individuals off the streets. The targets of the program, according to a staff report, include people who have had contact with the criminal-justice system, who have a high chance of recidivism and who "significantly impact county, state or local resources." The partnership would allow the city to tap into a $518,400 county fund aimed at providing long-term transitional housing.

"It is hoped, with assistance of a housing subsidy and the assistance of an intensive case manager, they'll be able to reach the point of stability to be able to transfer off the subsidy to a non-subsidized unit in the future," van der Zwagg said.

The intensive case manager will be tasked with locating new clients, arranging for housing vouchers, preparing the client for housing, finding a landlord willing to rent and help the clients deal with their particular barriers, which could include substance abuse, mental-health problems or criminal history.

This approach was proposed by the Homeless Services Task Force, a coalition of nonprofit groups that has been meeting in recent months to consider a response to Cubberley's closure and the vehicle-dwelling ban. Chris Richardson, director of program operations at Downtown Streets Team, said the group felt it was "a plan that we could all agree was the best course of actions under the current circumstances." But Richardson, whose nonprofit provides jobs to homeless individuals, also stressed that this program would just be the "tip of an iceberg" in addressing what he called a "short-term crisis" spurred by the recent bans.

The program, he said, would move about 15 percent of the city's estimated homeless population into housing.

"Most importantly, we'll work on successful housing-retention strategies so that these clients remain in housing," Richardson said.

Council members all agreed to follow this approach, though there was some debate over whether they should specify that the $250,000 allocation would be a one-time expense. Councilman Greg Schmid and Councilwoman Karen Holman argued that they shouldn't. Schmid said leaving the word "one-time" in the resolution effectively says to the public that the city is "buying its way" out of dealing with the issues related to Cubberley's closure. Holman made a similar point.

"If we leave it in, it gives the indication that we're done," Holman said. "I don't want to send this message."

But the majority urged caution. Councilwoman Gail Price and Klein said the city should provide the funding without future commitments and then proceed with a longer debate on finding sustainable funding sources. This approach, she said, makes sense for a city of Palo Alto's size.

"In this social and economic environment, it's extremely difficult to really thrive and survive for many people," Price said. "This is a very, very important, critical service."

Councilwoman Liz Kniss, a former county supervisor, agreed and stressed the importance of having the city leverage county resources and proceeding with the "housing first" approach urged by staff. She called homelessness an "intractable problem."

"I think having the county involved in this is extremely important," Kniss said.


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Posted by NotASolution
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 8, 2013 at 8:52 am

[Portion removed.] If the pilot doesn't work out then the city council will have even a bigger problem explaining why they took the program away. This is another way off track solution by the city council.

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Posted by Raymond
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 8, 2013 at 10:40 am

At least, they will get a better idea of what the problem actually is, instead of criminalizing homelessness outright.

Of course, the problem is larger than Palo Alto, but it's a start.

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Posted by Green Acres Resident
a resident of Green Acres
on Oct 8, 2013 at 11:12 am

The current City Council Members operate in unanimously on all major issues. I wonder why we elected such people to lead the City. Question: Does PAHC place county-wise applicants in all the below market housing and low income housing? Is such data available to the public? If so, Palo Alto Daily/Weekly should ask for it and make it known to P.A. citizens prior to election date.

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Posted by Cid Young
a resident of another community
on Oct 8, 2013 at 11:25 am

If you build it they will come

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Posted by JoAnn
a resident of Ventura
on Oct 8, 2013 at 12:24 pm

This is a regional problem and needs to be dealt with on that basis. Each town can't decide whether to chase the homeless out, let them sleep in their cars, offer them single-room, below-market housing, or try to herd them into camps. The homeless are not stupid, though some of them are mentally ill. They will gravitate to wherever they get the best deal. We have to come up with regional solutions, which might include re-opening some of the mental hospitals closed by damn Reagan and emptied out on the streets.

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Posted by Annerike
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Oct 8, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Cid is right...if the homeless get a better deal here than elsewhere, they will migrate here in large numbers.

The same thing happened in the seventies with welfare recipients and Hawaii: welfare payouts are higher there, and a lot of welfare recipients migrated there. What they did not count on was the fact that the whole cost of living was higher there, and now there are two and three generations of lifelong welfare recipients stuck in Hawaii.

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 8, 2013 at 12:32 pm

Bad idea, unless we can join forces with our neighboring cities we are just attracting the homeless from the Bay Area to come here.

Make a regional solution, identify the individuals who need different types of help, and stop this piecemeal attempt at putting a band aid on a big problem.

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Posted by Thayer
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 8, 2013 at 12:55 pm

What would Jesus have to say about this?

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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Oct 8, 2013 at 1:05 pm

I agree tackling homelessness on a regional scale is great but we can't even solve the housing problem and the traffic problem.

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Posted by bobgnote
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 8, 2013 at 2:43 pm

If the bubbles break, homeless will be all over the place.

1. Environmental bubble
2. Derivative bubble
3. Real estate bubble
4. Student debt bubble
5. Corruption bubble

All sorts of bubbles together may pop, when one or two pop. Of course, expect the professionals at gridlock to make really sure the frackers and pipeliners chase folk, from the countryside, to the cities, and then the cities will fail.

No other outcome is possible, since gridlock representation is exclusively self-serving. Only gridlock is the objective, for our corrupted 450,000 elected bureaucrats and countless appointed bureaucrats, in the USA, since these advance controversy, to abet fraud, waste, and abuse, while evading discovery, for illegal interests, which continue.

If we live, into the roaring 2020s, we shall see lots of homeless.

But you sleazes with piles of junk at Cubberley need to pick up and GO, or be cited. Your smoking and drinking amidst your trashing is a hazard, unaddressed by the local bleeding hearts and vampires.

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Posted by Neighbors Helping Neighbors
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 8, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Dear Neighbors & Friends,
If you know of anyone who is housed or unhoused and struggling, please have them contact us. There are alternative solutions for our 'neighbors in need'. No one organization can be all and do all for the growing number of folks who are failing through no fault of their own.

We are a group of volunteers striving to provide groceries to Palo Alto & recently Mtn,View families, seniors and singles who are unable to qualify for 'safety net' programs like Cal Fresh (formally food stamps) or food closet assistance. However, extra food items collected are given to local food closets. Also, our City of Palo Alto Family Resources trained volunteer(s) provides peer counseling and referrals for other life's challenges (housing, healthcare,jobs, professional counseling, legal issues, etc.) for those who may need extra help.

Palo Alto Weekly article, "Catching neighbors who fall through the gap." Dated Friday Jan. 25, 2013
Web Link

Caryll-Lynn Taylor,
Exc. Dir. & Food Programs Chair
P.O. BOX 113 Palo Alto, CA 94302

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Posted by thats
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 8, 2013 at 3:03 pm

yes if youre ''white'' and ''homeless ' you may indeed have ''mental'' problems, because its easy for a ''white'' to be accepted SOMEWHERE. but not all classify as ''white'' and are not accepted in society.much difficult to get decent job or ''underground'' support system of being ''white'' or even ''black''. some have no category they fit so it is indeed difficult in todays system society.america is a crazy place. nothing left to say.

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Posted by Cynthia
a resident of Egan Middle School (Los Altos)
on Oct 8, 2013 at 5:36 pm

I read an article a few years back about a popular homeless man from Palo Alto, who was an alleged nuisance to the shop owners and other homeless people (he abused other homeless people) that panhandled in the same area. He was given a large apartment along with not one, but two cars! The article showed pictures of him and his cars. He was being featured again because he had attacked a man in a wheelchair over an area he still panhandled in daily! I want to know, who is in charge of allocating these funds? This man is darn near a celebrity, and the man in the wheelchair (a different race) is crippled and homeless? People are always defending him and making excuses for him! Even homeless people (depending on what they look like) are still treated better than others, depending on who is witnessing it! Keep it real, or kill yourself!

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Posted by Cynthia
a resident of Egan Middle School (Los Altos)
on Oct 8, 2013 at 5:43 pm

God Bless You, Caryll-Lynn Taylor! I hope your organization helps all, not the "chosen few". I'm very impressed to see a post to the public about helping those that cant help themselves! The world is not so bad after all. You could have posted that anywhere, and you chose to do it publicly.

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Posted by Phil
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 8, 2013 at 5:47 pm

This is an example of trying to alleviate whatever guilt persists, or avoiding a perception of being uncaring following the vote to prohibit vehicle dwelling on Palo Alto public streets and property. I ask why? Why should anyone in Palo Alto feel guilty when we as a community have gone above and beyond in providing and playing host to a myriad of homeless outreach services. We are a magnet for those less fortunate from throughout the bay area. The homeless advocates continue to play the guilt card and crow bar their way into our community. They act as if there are no limits to Palo Alto's generosity and compassion, even if the community has to pay a heavy price in terms of the negative fallout.

Palo Alto contributes more to providing space, public funds, and homeless outreach services than any other city in our region. We already contribute over a six-figure tax dollar allocation to help fund many of these services. And now we are expected to pay out more? Pay more to those that take up residence in our city, with the vast majority having no community roots or ties. Of course they will continue to come in from all over. Who wouldn't.

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Posted by Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 8, 2013 at 8:35 pm

We have 157 homeless people in Palo Alto according to county estimates. They are proposing to start with the 20 most difficult cases. Why? What will be the criteria for success? 1 in stable housing, 2, 5, 10, 15? The criteria should be set now or this is an endless rat hole sucking money.

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Posted by Jane
a resident of University South
on Oct 8, 2013 at 9:34 pm

This and other stories do not mention that this community has, all along, done MUCH for the homeless. We've built apartment buildings, provided services, organized help with hot meals, provided job training and health services, food closets, free clothing. Much has been done by churches; many of the services have been provided in concert with the City of Palo Alto.

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Posted by NoBalance
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 8, 2013 at 9:41 pm

Green Acres Resident said it best.....

"The current City Council Members operate in unanimously on all major issues. I wonder why we elected such people to lead the City."

Where is the balance of views? We should have council members that represent both sides of the coin.

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Posted by Jack
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 8, 2013 at 11:09 pm

Phil, Phil, Phil, there you go again [portion removed] about your own entitlements to own public property, the public streets, while grossly miss-leading the public about the issue and problems of homelessness in Palo Alto and the peninsula.

See Phil�s propaganda exposed at this earlier article:
Palo Alto votes to shut down Cubberley 'shelter'
Web Link

[Portion removed.]

You see if you would look at the problem of a lack of housing with objectivity following the problem to its source then you would understand that the homeless are homeless for one reason and one reason only, and that is a lack of housing in every town and city in the bay area and elsewhere. The reason why there is a lack of housing is because people like you prevent the cities from building more because you don�t want to harm your property value.

[Portion removed.]
You are absolutely correct when it comes to allocating $250,000 grand to a homeless service provider to help find housing for a small fraction of the homeless, all that will do is provide a nice salary for a case worker. Instead of providing housing for twenty people for a year if that 250 grand were spent lobbying policy makers into building more housing perhaps it would equate to a 1,000 homeless being housed permanently. There in-lies the conflict of interest to the homeless service provider, should it actually accomplish its goal of eliminating homelessness then its services will no longer be needed and thus the jobs it provides will cease to exist.

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Posted by Jack
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 8, 2013 at 11:27 pm

August 19/20 Debate Between Phil and Jack:

Palo Alto votes to shut down Cubberley 'shelter'
Web Link

Posted by Phil, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 20, 2013 at 11:00 am

This was the wise and sound move to make, and I applaud our city council. Any decision that involves those less fortunate in our midst is always difficult. On the heels of the vehicle dwelling ban, this will at least begin to even out the playing field when it comes to our region's approach in dealing with the homeless. I am gratified that our city council members applied some common sense in making this decision, as opposed to being played by the guilt card which is inevitably tossed in these matters.

Palo Alto has long been a magnet for the homeless because of our overall sense of compassion, generosity, and tolerance. Unfortunately there are too many people, especially the homeless advocates, that wish to take advantage of these attributes. They perceive this all to be never ending and without limits, offering little or no regard to the impact it has on the overall quality of life in our neighborhoods. Any past attempts to place reasonable limits have been met with accusations, many of which are repeated on this post, of people being uncaring or out of touch. That's simply not the case.

Quite the contrary. Palo Alto as a whole has carried the burden of the homeless outreach efforts in our region for decades. No other city in our area, if not the greater Bay Area, comes even close to Palo Alto in terms of allocating public funds for homeless outreach, playing host to facilities that serve those less fortunate, as well as having no restrictions on vehicle dwelling, or in this case, allowing people to use public party in the form of a community center as a mobile shelter of sorts. Every other city already has an ordinance on the books prohibiting such activity, and on top of that, have few resources if any allocated toward homeless outreach. And people wonder why Palo Alto has a disproportionately high number of homeless and people living on our streets?

Again, I hope this will begin to spread out the responsibility when it comes to homeless outreach in our region, and give our city some tools that will enable us to preserve the quality of life in our neighborhoods.

Posted by Phil, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 20, 2013 at 4:20 pm


Contrary to what some people have said on this board, the majority of people living on Palo Alto streets, or utilizing resources such as the Opportunity Center, have few if any community roots and ties to Palo Alto. That I learned from being involved in numerous volunteer organizations over the years.

On the issue of our faith based community and churches getting involved to form a coalition of mobile shelters, it has been well publicized that only one church in Palo Alto stepped up to the plate.

Posted by Jack , a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 20, 2013 at 5:54 pm

Phil states:

that most of the homeless who live in Palo Alto and use the services have no roots here and therefore do not deserve to be here.

Phil is the one who is incorrect. It is true that many people whom he has come in contact with at the O.C. are not from Palo Alto, but the O.C. is not just for Palo Altans, it is a regional service provider, thus people from Mountain View, Menlo Park and Redwood City have every right to be here.

Secondarily Phil comes into contact with people who seek hand outs from the service providers, Phil does not come into contact with the 20 homeless individuals who work either full-time or part-time and do not need or want charity. These people Phil never sees unless of course he happens to glance at one exiting their car and then wrongly assumes that the person must be a leach on services. About half of these ten have deep roots in Palo Alto living here from 20 to 50 years who even graduated high school here.

The problem with Phil and his ilk is that he believes that unless you are making six figures you do not have a right to live in Palo Alto even if your job is in Palo Alto, even if you are a full time School Teacher teaching Phil's kids their "A, B, Cs."

Posted by Phil, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 20, 2013 at 10:06 pm

Dear Jack,

I will state the obvious in expressing what I believe. No one has a "right" to live in Palo Alto. One lives where they can afford to live, and should not expect others to subsidize their housing just because they "want" or "demand" to live in a certain place. It's called reality. Some people can't afford to live in Palo Alto, just like I can't afford to live in Atherton or Hillsboro.

Posted by Phil, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 20, 2013 at 10:40 pm

Allow me to add another thought Jack. I maintain as stated originally that the majority of people living on Palo Alto streets, or seeking homeless outreach services have few if any community roots and ties in Palo Alto. I didn't say all, but certainly a majority.

You are correct in your observation that the Opportunity Center is indeed open to anyone seeking assistance at the drop-in center, and/or if they should qualify for housing at that facility. People come in from all over the Bay Area and even reaches beyond. For that reason it clearly makes my point. Palo Alto plays host to the Opportunity Center along with many other homeless services. Additionally, Palo Alto tax payers allocate a six-figure annual allowance to help support the OC.

This all leads to the point that I'm trying to make, so thanks for bringing it up. Palo Alto is by far the leader in our region for providing homeless services and tax payer funding for those services. As a result we end up with a disproportionate number of homeless people, as well as the many problems and challenges that comes along with that. Trust me, I realize that not every person living on the street is a criminal or threat to society. I get it, so spare me the histrionics already. I also realize, and common sense dictates, that an equally disproportionate number of those people do not find themselves in that situation simply because they lost their job or are experiencing financial difficulty. That is not the case. The majority do suffer from varying degrees of mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, and have criminal backgrounds that makes it difficult if not impossible to find employment.

Palo Alto cannot continue to host all of these services, and not have local laws prohibiting things like vehicle dwelling on public streets and parking lots. Palo Altans have a long history of compassion, tolerance, and generosity. We deserve some reasonable limits and boundaries that these laws provide in preserving the quality of life in our neighborhoods.

Posted by Jack, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 20, 2013 at 11:24 pm


you are wrong on several points. There are 7,631 homeless people in Santa Clara County. There at most 157 homeless people who utilize any services in Palo Alto.
Web Link

There is only one shelter of 15 beds in Palo Alto and that is not the O.C. The O.C. does not have any shelter for the homeless. There is housing located in the same building as the O.C. but it is not apart of the O.C. operations. This long term housing for the poor can be utilized by people who are not homeless, people who are just poor. Even so, the wait list is about 2 years from what I have been told.

Most of the shelters and services are in San Jose where most of the homeless reside. Sunnyvale housed 150 shelter beds.
Web Link

Since 1992, the Homeless Fund has awarded more than 2 million dollars to shelter and homeless service providers. Some of these grants have funded the following: the San Mateo County Winter Shelter; the Maple Street Shelter in Redwood City and the First Step for Families Shelter in San Mateo; the Catholic Worker Hospitality House in San Bruno; the Clara-Mateo Shelter in Menlo Park; the Bethsaida Family Living Home in Redwood City; and Free At Last's Walker House in East Palo Alto. The Homeless Fund also provides grants for additional homelessness prevention programs and permanent housing projects.
Web Link

Your statement that, "Palo Alto is by far the leader in our region for providing homeless services and tax payer funding for those services," is not true and therefore is misleading the public.

InnVision which operates the O.C. has a 16 million dollar budget, yet only a small fraction of this is spent in Palo Alto with the majority spent in other communities and on staff salaries.
Web Link

There are approximately 663,000 long term homeless people nation wide with a 1,600,000 experiencing short term of homelessness each year. Of those given one night of shelter in January 2010 26.2% had a severe mental illness and 34.7% had a chronic substance issue. That leaves about 39% or 624,000 homeless people who are not mentally ill or have a substance abuse problem.
Web Link

Why do you persist in falsely portraying a large portion of the homeless population?

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Posted by Jack
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 8, 2013 at 11:31 pm

Web Links For Above:

Web Link

Web Link

Web Link

Web Link

Web Link

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Posted by Neighbors Helping Neighbors
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 9, 2013 at 2:45 pm


Dear Friends and Neighbors, an on-going dialogue of the root causes for too many of our neighbors is a good things. But our close neighbors, family members and colleaques need us to implement 'alternative solutions' for their basic needs now.
Although, Neighbors Helping Neighbors will hold our annual food drive with 'food drop off sites' through out Palo Alto, Oct. 14th to Dec. 21st. It will not be enough food to provide for ALL 97 household
on our grocery roster plus 30 other households on the 'waiting list' to receive groceries. So, we are requesting that you Hold Your Own Food Drive. It can be for one day, one week or one month, its up to you.

It can be fun and easy! Simply, sign up for the dates you want to drop off the foods you've collected via our 'doodle poll'. We can provide flyers, food collection supplies and more. Email us at

An 'alternative solution' for emergency & permenant housing is no/low cost shared housing & house sitting.
If you can offer a room in your apartment or house for no or low cost, we can match you with a good/reliable/responsible single, couple or family.
[Portion removed.]

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Posted by toulouse street
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 9, 2013 at 2:48 pm

[Post removed.]

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Posted by released
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 10, 2013 at 2:30 pm

[Post removed.]

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Posted by Palo Parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 11, 2013 at 7:55 am

All the Cubberley parking lot campers are gone this morning. Good job PAPD (finally).

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Posted by papd
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 12, 2013 at 1:48 pm

police are racist.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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