News


A 'hidden population' in Palo Alto schools

At least 18 students from 10 homeless families in district schools this year

The details were hazy but the urgency was clear: A family with three Palo Alto schoolchildren was living in their car, with a parent seriously ill. Could anybody help?

No solutions were forthcoming when the family's plight was raised by Philip Dah, program director of the Opportunity Center, at an Oct. 10 meeting of Palo Alto's Human Relations Commission. Dah said the school district had called him to see whether he knew of housing leads, but he had none.

The three children are among 18 Palo Alto students, from 10 different families, known by the school district to be homeless this year, said Student Services Coordinator Brenda Carrillo.

The children, she said, range from kindergartners to high school students. Some are living in cars or campers, others in shelters and others with friends or family members on a short-term basis.

Some of the families are newly homeless — thrown into crisis by a serious illness, separation or divorce — while a handful have been homeless for years, Carrillo said.

"These are families that face extreme challenges," she said.

A 1987 federal law, the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, enumerates rights of homeless children to continue at the school they attend when they first become homeless. It also ensures homeless children transportation to and from school free of charge.

The Palo Alto school district issues bus or Caltrain passes to students living in homeless shelters outside the district if they choose to continue in local schools. In some cases, families will opt to switch to districts where the shelter is located, Carrillo said.

The district also ensures that homeless students have backpacks, school supplies, laptop computers, tutoring if necessary and gifts for the holidays.

For homeless children, the challenges are many.

"There are the functional things like showering and food, and then the whole other arena of how they're accepted in school, how they can fit in and the stigma that comes with being homeless," Carrillo said.

"That's not something most of us would want others to know about, and we're strategic in working with the families to find out what their comfort level is, and how they'd like us to serve them.

"Some of the parents say, 'Please don't provide any services to my student on campus, but if there's a backpack or a computer I'll come to the district office and pick it up.'

"Other families are much more open about having the supports provided on campus — but this is certainly a hidden population."

Carrillo said she did not know which member of the school district had called the Opportunity Center in search of housing for the car-dwelling family with three students.

"We're not social workers or case managers, but if we can make a call to advocate on behalf of a family, we'll definitely do that," she said.

"We do work closely with the Opportunity Center, but it's always a balance because our primary interest is in making sure children have access to the curriculum, are doing well and can participate in activities."

The number of documented homeless students in Palo Alto fluctuates — last year it was 15 children from eight families — and may not be complete.

"There may be other families out there who would meet the legal definition but may not choose to come forward, may feel they're managing on their own and don't want folks to know about it or there may be cultural reasons," Carrillo said. "But I don't think we have all that many."

"People are often surprised to hear that we actually have homeless families in our community, but I think its important for people to understand that our schools are made up of a lot of diversity," Carrillo said.

Comments

Posted by Mac Clayton, a resident of Community Center
on Nov 10, 2013 at 9:55 am

How can I help?


Posted by shelters, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 10, 2013 at 10:22 am

This is a shame. Palo Alto is doing a terrible job of providing homeless shelters that are safe and welcoming for families.


Posted by Thanks Weekly!, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 10, 2013 at 12:31 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by BPMe, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 10, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Wouldn't it be nice to offer help and not blame?
Kids are a family's responsibility and responsible adults should be in charge, not the owners of Maybell property, Buena Vista, or the city hall. My heart is with families in need, especially for those kids. No kid should be homeless.
I echo Mac Clayton - how can I help?


Posted by Another Chris, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Nov 10, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Mr Kenrick....

It would have been a more complete article, and much more helpful to the families involved, if you had published an address or email or even a telephone number of who to contact in order to help with assistance for these families.

Won't you please do so here?


Posted by whatis, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Nov 10, 2013 at 3:15 pm

what is that burning oodor it is everywhere.thats harmful to children and thosew with health issues. can anyone contact the fire department...what is that odor? its everywhere. something is burning not being told what that is.


Posted by Resident P.Alto, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 10, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Hope some of these rich tech wizards can open wallet to help these poor kids. I read other day Facebook founder(who makes all his money from stealing other people's private data) purchased all the property around him for privacy...He can certainly help these poor kids.


Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Nov 10, 2013 at 5:07 pm

@Resident P.Alto - our local "tech wizards" are often very generous with their money and if you don't like FB (or Google or Yahoo or any other tech product with roots in Palo Alto) feel free not to use it. But the operative words in this article were "hidden population", this is an issue we were not aware of.


Posted by Raymond, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 11, 2013 at 10:16 am

How about those homes purchased by Mark Zuckerberg? a know, the homes adjacent to his property?

Wake up!


Posted by Jose, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Nov 11, 2013 at 10:28 am

Maybe residents from the Crescent neighborhood could open their homes and help these families. Big houses and empty streets. Maybe just maybe they'll have a heart this Christmas.


Posted by KP, a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 11, 2013 at 10:36 am

How did they even get into the school? PAUSD is so difficult and strict. I don't know how they proved their residence??? You have to show your lease, utilities in your name, birth records and immunizations. Where is the residence of a car? Who's name is on what utility statement?
I know people from outside area's that can't get in. I am very confused right now.
I know that this isn't the point of the story, but I have dealt with PAUSD.


Posted by Midtowner, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 11, 2013 at 11:02 am

@ KP

Did you actually read the article? It clearly states that these kids who become homeless while enrolled in local schools are allowed by law to continue as students at their current schools.

Even in "perfect" Palo Alto people can become homeless. I does not just happen to "others".


Posted by Grandmakk, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 11, 2013 at 11:04 am

If you read the article carefully, it states that children can legally continue in a district they were attending before becoming homeless.


Posted by GrandmaKK, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 11, 2013 at 11:05 am

Thank you KP.

One of my pet peeves, people who don't read carefully and then spout off.
:)


Posted by GrandmaKK, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 11, 2013 at 11:07 am

Oh no. I did it myself. I meant to thank Midtowner. Okay I'm done now.


Posted by Mac Clayton, a resident of Community Center
on Nov 11, 2013 at 11:10 am

It would be nice if we opened our homes to the homeless. It's not likely to happen, though, for many reasons. I don't think we should be so quick to judge our financially successful neighbors. I'm sure they aid the causes they care about. If they do nothing, I doubt they are reading these posts and changing their ways. All we can do is ourselves do what we think should be done. For my part, I'd like to make a small (say $100) donation to someone who could help these children. Would that be PAUSD? The Opportunity Center? I'd appreciate suggestions. Maybe others would like to join me.


Posted by HopeCenter, a resident of Duveneck School
on Nov 11, 2013 at 11:17 am

We are a new non-profit ministry in Palo Alto. Doing our part to help take care of the "stranger" - including people who we do not know are homeless - is part of our Christian responsibility. Please let us know if there is anything we can do. info@hopecenter650.org


Posted by palo alto resident, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 11, 2013 at 11:24 am

Ms. Kenrick - is there a way for people to donate to help these families? Maybe through one of the school PTA's. Most schools have some sort of "helping hands" programs that allow the recipients to remain anonymous if the wish.

@Raymond - as far as I know, the houses Mr. Zuckerberg purchased are being leased back to the former owners, he simply wanted to prevent a developer from building a house next door and marketing it as "next to Mark Zuckerberg". Steve Jobs also purchased the home next to his year ago and so has Larry Page (although he knocked them down and built a home there).


Posted by Chris Kenrick, Palo Alto Weekly Staff Writer, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 11, 2013 at 11:28 am

Mac and others,

I'm trying to find out ways people can help, either with cash donations or offers of temporary housing. If and when I learn anything I'll post it here and perhaps update the article as well.


Posted by American, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 11, 2013 at 12:56 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by Neighbors Helping Neighbors, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 11, 2013 at 1:49 pm

Dear Mac Clayton and others,
HOW YOU CAN HELP OUR UN-HOUSED & HOUSED 'AT RISK'...
This article does not come close to the number of un-housed living in temporary with family, friends, colleques, other shared living situations.
If you know of anyone housed or un-housed who is struggling to cover their basic needs, please have them contact, NeighborsHelpingNeighbors2013@gmail.com

NHN is so grateful to our community for your generosity and volunteerism.
We strive to make roles & tasks fast, fun and comfortable. All ages welcome. Activities can be modified to be age appropriate or for physical limitations.
Volunteers are only asked to volunteer on two hour shifts. Check our 'doodle poll' for dates and timeslots. Click this link, Web Link
Then simply, type your name and one of the following volunteer roles. Locations and directions are send via email. Some roles are flexible and can be done at home.
_____________________________________________________________________________
NHN Food Drive, Oct. 21st to Dec. 21st- our annual food drive has begun.

HOLD YOUR OWN FOOD DRIVE – perfect for group or school.

Rolled Oats Project OCT, NOV. & DEC. - individuals can volunteers to help us fill ziploc bags with rolled oats. TIME COMMITMENT: 2 HOURS
Next scheduled bagging event Thurs. Oct. 12th, 2-4pm
Rolled Oats Bagger – sign ups via 'doodle poll'.
Click this link, Web Link
Please type your name & volunteer role, such as Bel Valesquez, Rolled Oats Bagger. Then select one of these dates: Nov. or Dec. Be sure (after you click save) to fill in your name, address, phone and email. We will confirm by sending you an email with location and directions
BE A HOST/HOSTESS – if you have space in your home, garage or business to accommodate 6-7 adults or 2 adults and 4-5 children, let us know.
We can loan you the folding tables, rolled oats and folding banquet tables.

Food Storage - We have had to get creative with food storage. Can you provide a little space? Or do you know anyone who has space in their garage, that would be helpful.
Space for 20-30 Large to medium boxes
We would need to store boxes two weeks out of each month.
Note, during "grocery" distribution time first Sat. of the month to the 14th", we need to have access to the boxes of food.

Computer work and graphics
We need an experienced person to do computer work. Here are a few of the tasks.
edit posters and flyers periodically. Add graphics like our logos to flyers and posters.
We have a couple fundraising events that we need flyers for.
Can you do this or do you know anyone who can help with some of these tasks?
FaceBook -
We need an enthusiastic soul to monitoring our Face Book page. Invite people to like us. And periodically update our page with events and programs.

Postings To Goggle/Yahoo groups & Other Networks
This a very important and timely task to be preformed as it directly helps our 'Neighbors In Need".
1. Periodically we need to post messages to neighborhoods & other groups.
2. Regularly we need someone to read, copy and send us postings on goggle & yahoo groups & other groups for 'housing', jobs and free bees.

There's something for anyones' busy schedule... This is how you can directly
make a significant difference in the lives of our Palo Alto neighbors who are in dire circumstances.

Like us and contact us on face book, Web Link


Posted by Southern Roots, a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 11, 2013 at 1:52 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by Neighbors Helping Neighbors, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 11, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Sorry, guys, next rolled oats bagging event Thurs. Dec. 12th @ 2-4 pm.


Posted by Midtown observer, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 12, 2013 at 1:01 pm

There are several houses in palo alto that have not had an actual person living in them for several months as they are being held as investments. Some have some furnishing and some do not but they have stayed empty of people for months and in some cases years.

Can't we think of a clever way to encourage the owners to allow these folks
to act as caretakers and / or pay some portion of rent to maintain these places ? Do you have an extra room or cottage in your home that you could
be generous and rent below market price (currently a astounding $2500 to $4500k see Web Link)

One of the tough thing in Palo Alto is to find a place with reasonable rent and to have the money for security deposits.

Do not neglect these children, they are indeed part of all our futures.

[Portion removed.]



Posted by Palo Alto does not care, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 12, 2013 at 5:31 pm

Palo Alto does not care. A handful, literally, do, but this community won't be making many top ten lists for caring cities. It's all about NIMBYism and property values.


Posted by Duvmom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 12, 2013 at 5:57 pm

There seem to be a lot of Palo Alto haters reading Palo Alto Online. For the prices you are paying to live here perhaps your money would be better spent moving elsewhere. [Portion removed.]


Posted by Palo Alto does not care, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 13, 2013 at 6:27 am

Thank you. Your tone says it way better than I ever could!


Posted by Chris Kenrick, Palo Alto Weekly Staff Writer, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 13, 2013 at 6:55 am

For those who have asked how they can help these families, the school district suggests that you send contributions to the Christmas Bureau of Palo Alto, PO Box 51874, Palo Alto, CA 94303 (www.christmasbureauofpaloalto.org). While it's not possible to restrict your donation to these particular families, the district's Tabitha Kappeler Hurley says the Christmas Bureau has been and continues to be strongly focused on Palo Alto school families in need, including homeless families.


Posted by Incogman, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Wow- a lot of very good ideas here, I notice a few "recommendations" that all of the wealthy open up their wallets and homes to these people. Why stop there? Why not those with the great advice use it themselves? Open up YOUR house to the homeless, why recommend someone else do so? I don't live in PA, but sometimes have work there. I myself would actually have a hard time opening my home up to complete strangers, homeless or not.

Quote by commenter: "One of the tough thing in Palo Alto is to find a place with reasonable rent and to have the money for security deposits."

Yes, that is why I don't live in Palo Alto!! Can't afford it, don't buy it. From my experience, there is another "hidden population": those that claim residency so that their children can attend a certain school. There was even a Simpson's episode where Homer and Marge wanted Bart and Lisa to attend a pricey area school so they lied about their address, and when they feared getting caught they were forced to rent a tiny apartment in that zip code.

Sorry, but I am not about to subsidize someone's wishing to attend a school not in a zip code they can afford. I am sure the Palo Alto residents worked VERY hard to live in that area. Again, another apology, but the flavor I am getting here from the comments is a lot of hatred for those who studied hard and worked hard to get where they are today, as if they stole their way into their positions! There is a word for no rich nor poor, and equal income for all regardless of education or social position: it's called Communism.


Posted by Carlos, a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 13, 2013 at 3:13 pm

I think Incogman said it very well. Instead of expecting others (like the so-called "wealthy") to do something about these problems, do something about it yourself if you care about the issue.

There's definitely some class and race related resentment in some postings, but hating others who are better off won't get you very far. As an immigrant who studied/worked hard to live in this community, I'm particularly aware of how generous this community is to those who are less fortunate. No matter what we do there will always be negative people who will resent our community, and we'll just have to ignore them like anything else that is not worth spending time on.


Posted by duvmom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 13, 2013 at 9:18 pm

Amen! Well said Carlos and Incogman.


Posted by soi dog org, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 13, 2013 at 9:44 pm

I can't believe this story. Unreal, unbelievable.


Posted by PACA OPA, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 13, 2013 at 10:34 pm

Thank you Chris Kenrick for providing the address. I will gladly contribute.


Posted by OPar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 14, 2013 at 1:14 am

There are a couple of empty houses in my neighborhood--one's been bought by a family who plan to tear it down and put up a new one. The other was overpriced even in this market and hasn't sold. I doubt the would-be sellers want to risk any damage--or signs of being lived in--to their property, while the would-be demolishers probably don't want anyone who would get in their way of demolishing the old house.

In other words, things are never that simple. The moment someone moves in, liability becomes an issue. Not everyone wants to be a landlord.

I admit, given just how insanely expensive it is here, that I'm puzzled by the homeless families. I'd think one would end up downsizing elsewhere before ending up in a car, given the extreme rents. But I suppose they may have been putting a large share of their income toward rent, then when the jobs went there was no savings to move out and pay a first-and-last elsewhere.

But, anyway, I don't think we need the local plutocrats to handle this. Lots of people actually do have extra room. There are lots of in-law units about. Maybe there's a way to help subsidize the rent for a few of those.


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 14, 2013 at 11:47 am

Unfortunately, owing to the very litigious world we live in, I seriously doubt any educated homeowner would "open their house" to a random group of persons, family or not, whether the home is unoccupied and slated for renovations or an investment or lived in or whatnot. The fact is liability. I am NOT in the insurance business, but I pay a lot in insurance to even live in a home in Palo Alto (not just fire insurance), and I understand the risks of that, but the sad reality is that if someone twiddles their finger or twists their ankle on your property, they can sue you. Crazy California - crazy judges - crazy juries. Huge awards. SO - If you do decide to open your doors to random folks, have them sign a waiver of responsibility/liability (hire a lawyer to draft the appropriate language...)There have been huge problems with so-called squatters' rights in other places, what if the place burns down since a fire was lit or unattended it goes on and on.
Personally, I donate financially and with canned goods to Second Harvest Food Bank, a reputable nonprofit organization, as food is the most basic need of people anywhere in difficulty. I also suggest relocating to an area with a much lower cost of living - there are numerous choices. There are actions each of us can take to assist others in need, but throwing open the doors to random houses in Palo Alto is not a sensible suggestion.


Posted by boo hoo, but vote against it, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 14, 2013 at 12:05 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Posted by OPar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 14, 2013 at 1:31 pm

[Portion removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]

Anonymous,

I agree things are litigious, but people do rent in-law units and such--that's why I think some sort of rent subsidy program might work--that way there are still protections for landlords, but also homes for kids in the district.


Posted by OPar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 14, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Yep, I'm following myself here, but this is actually sort of a question for the Weekly since I didn't find a quick answer Googling.

Who are the poor of Palo Alto? And how is "poor" determined. The Pro-D supporters claim that 20 percent of Palo Alto seniors are poor, but the only definition of "poor" I saw in an admittedly quick Google search referred to income, not assets.

I'm sure there are plenty of seniors on fixed incomes, but if they own property in Palo Alto, they're sitting on a million-plus worth of assets. That's not poor, but those seniors can, nonetheless, be struggling.

Or, and this is another group I see, are they seniors living with their kids? More and more, you see homes built or expanded to have a second master suite--clearly in response to multigenerational families--families that *want* their homes to be multigenerational as it's part of their cultural traditions. I don't doubt that some of these seniors would qualify as "poor", but they're not in need of BMR housing.

Is it really BMR housing for seniors that's needed or *other* services, such as transportation, affordable food, translators, and support for seniors who need serious caretaking?

What does it mean to be a "poor" senior in Palo Alto? I'd like some real answers.

Well?


Posted by Robert, a resident of another community
on Nov 14, 2013 at 2:31 pm

What I find truly sad about this situation, is how many of those folks who come at the issue so cold heartedly (i.e. if you can't afford to live here, keep out), can themeselves only afford to live in Palo Alto due to massive tax breaks, and are themselves being subsidized my new home buyers.


Posted by OPar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 14, 2013 at 7:15 pm

Ah, not surprising that we had a sock-puppet problem.

Robert, you're making a lot of assumptions--i.e. that everyone posting here A)owns their home and B)has held it for so long that they're not paying high property taxes.

The vast majority of posts that aren't spewing anti-Palo Alto sentiments seemed to be concerned with how to help these families.


Posted by Palo Alto does not care, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 14, 2013 at 7:25 pm

Palo Alto voters don't want riff-raff in this town. There are plenty of adults and children living from one motel to another, going at it day by day, and also trying to take advantage of a decent school system, if compared to school districts which have as a majority poor families, often families of color. Ask the voters if they will approve any local measure that resembles compassion for the less-fortunate residents, they'll tell you at the ballot box.


Posted by Old Palo Alto Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 14, 2013 at 11:34 pm

It is hard to define "poor" in Palo Alto. My neighbors live in a dilapidated shack on a standard size lot in Old Palo Alto. They collect bottles and cans for extra cash, shop for cloths at Good Will, and don't buy the necessary medicine for type 2 diabetes since they can not afford a co-pay. The land value of their property is well over a million dollars, these people chose to be without funds, but they are not "poor". I would appreciate it if Chris K. would expand her story and include the elderly in our community, who are poor millionaires.


Posted by Paly Alum, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 15, 2013 at 12:24 am

Great post by Incogman!

America is the land of opportunity and we have lazy Americans who take this country for granted and expect the wealthy and government to bail them out. Immigrants work hard and save their money for the future. Americans should be so smart. Credit debt is out of control here. People shouldn't spend what they don't have; but it's the American culture which is passed from one generation to the next. On top of it, Americans don't value their elderly, so they can't turn to their parents for help. The immigrants are going to take over this country. And rightly so - Americans are too spoiled - there is no excuse to be homeless unless a person is a disabled veteran or severely mentally ill (not just complacently mentally ill). Most of the Paly alums cannot afford to return to Palo Alto to live - it's not a right to live in Palo Alto. There are plenty of other nice places to live but people are spoiled and stubborn.


Posted by Palo Alto does not care, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 15, 2013 at 4:16 am

Palo Alto, love or it or leave it! No, really, leave it if you're poor because you're lazy. I'm learning a lot.


Posted by BPMe, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 15, 2013 at 6:38 am

"Leave it if you can't afford it " should be taught as your basis


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