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on Aug 31, 2013
and, dare to ask this, what are the "opportunities" that exist here? this is a disgrace to those who grew up in the bay area. what about the people who are not billionaires or multi-millionaires? is it any wonder that such incidents occur?
If this were a private sector hotel, there would be no doubt be law suits filed against the management for failing to provide for the safety of the residents. So, what about this place?
> Philip Dah, program director for the Opportunity Center,
> referred an inquiry to the Housing Authority of Santa Clara
> County. A spokesperson for the nonprofit InnVision Shelter
> Network, which provides walk-in services at the Opportunity Center,
> said the nonprofit is not connected to the housing portion of
> the facility.
Seems that pass the buck and duck the answer are the two modes of responsibility demonstrated by the management of this Center.
If the Police are getting a lot of calls to deal with the occupants--maybe it's time to consider ways to shut down this facility, or at least make certain that the management is forced to recognize that the people here can not the same as people living in other residence hotels, and need insurance and an armed guard on premises, to insure the residents' safety.
Ms Sarmago, according to earlier newspaper reports, was taken by her boyfriend to Stanford Hospital Emergency Room by her companion soon after the attack. They checked her over and released her within fifteen or so minutes. Have they no culpability if or her now-paralytic condition?
After Ms Sarmago's Stanford E/R "exam", she complained, according to newspaper accounts, of a headache and not feeling well, and returned home to the unfortunately-named Opportunity Center to rest, accompanied by her companion, Mr Gullette. When he tried to awaken her later, she was apparently comatose, and remained comatose at an undisclosed ( probably VMC) hospital, until she recently regained consciousness in her current paralytic state.
Along with her assailant, Mr Guilford, doesn't Stanford Hospital share some blame for Ms Sarmago's current condition? Obviously, the Triage Nurse there did not do her job!
Given the lax security & what this place is about, this was actually predictable. I'm so sorry for this woman & her partner - it's a living nightmare that may be permanent. I hope she sues all responsible parties & wins- she'll need the money for ongoing care & these entities make changes once they feel the pain in their wallet. This poor victim can't even feel anything over a good portion of her body.
This has created a lot of trouble for Palo Alto. I have posted before about objecting to the location near a public high school. There is a lot of police action at this place. These services should not be here attracting additional vagrants and crime. Now I suppose the "deep pocket" City of Palo Alto will be sued on some sort of ridiculous basis. As a heavily taxed taxpayer, I am sick of this. Demands for more, more.
Hmmm, I agree with you. She should sue all those responsible for building this very predictable mess. Ever notice how these facilities are never built in the neighborhoods that house the elites who promote them?
The rarely spoken of issue is how our police resources are taken away from residential neighborhoods, because they are spending their time dealing with the homeless issues (e.g. OC and Cub). When will this end? Maybe a fat lawsuit will focus some minds.
Craig-- lets see the numbers on how much time the police away from residential neighborhoods and deal with " homeless issues" . Since you are making the claim, we can assume you have ome Ada to support your claims. Let's see it. Time to step up to the late and walk the talk.
> Ever notice how these facilities are never built in the neighborhoods that house the elites who promote them?
And how would that even work anyway ... that area of Palo Alto is not a neighborhood at all.
How do you know who promotes these facilities or how the locations are chosen?
if you don't have something to add why not just remain silent ... especially as this article is about someone's major injury why don't you show some respect?
>How do you know who promotes these facilities or how the locations are chosen?
Just go to their Boards or city council supporters, and figure it out...it is rarely in their neighborhoods. Speaking of which, why aren't any such facilities in Crescent Park? Embarcadero Oaks/ Leland?
Actually, where it's located isn't based on where elitists live. It was based on utter pragmatism & availability. Still, being near a school & shopping center aren't ideal. But what's really at stake is personal safety, which everyone deserves. This was a hateful, spiteful, vicious crime committed upon an older person. Financial heads should role to ensure that proper changes are made.
Let's face it. The Opportunity Center is a BIG problem, but it is a 'sacred cow', and no one wants to admit that it is a humane idea in the WRONG Place. I heard but cannot verify that the Palo Alto Clinic has a problem of people roaming the halls at night and sleeping in the underground parking lot. There are residents who avoid eating at T & C restaurants at night especially when it gets dark earlier. . Ask the Hyatt and the Sheraton about problems!! Does the Weekly list all the PAPD calls to the Op Center in the Weekly's Police Blotter? City Council - there IS a problem. Wake up. And the DA''s office thinks Palo Alto is a 'villain"???
And these are precisely the elements that are attracted to the Opportunity Center from throughout the Bay Area. Not all, but certainly a disproportionate amount. The same elements that spill out into our downtown area and surrounding neighborhoods.
This was an awful crime but the situation seems subject to a pretty straight forward solution - stricter enforcement of security protocols. Crime can and does happen everywhere. Think of the many robberies in the last year in palo alto. Or the killing of young man downtown a year or so ago. It is terrible but true. Opportunity Center has been a necessary resource for poor residents and a credit to all residents in palo alto. We need to support those living there, not blame the victims.
"From July 1, 2012, to Aug. 15, 2013, police responded to 254 calls for service at the Opportunity Center. Of those, 37 resulted in police reports with 19 arrests." (from the original article)
>Crime can and does happen everywhere ('Ellie' from College Terrace)
The OC has about 90 units. Show any comparable sample from College Terrace that generates anywhere near this level of police activity. There can be no serious discussion, if the naïve believe their own myths.
"If you build it they will come." So why do you keep building?
As I've stated on numerous prior occasions, Palo Alto by far carries the burden of the homeless outreach efforts in our region. With that comes more than our fair share of the negative fallout. And yet the homeless advocates continue to play the guilt card, and bitterly criticize our community when we pass common sense legislation like a vehicle dwelling ban.
Palo Alto has been incredibly tolerant, compassionate, and generous when it comes to dealing with these issues. Again, much more so than any of our neighboring communities. We can not, and should not allow these attributes to be taken advantage of. The Opportunity Center represents just one of the many homeless resource centers that call Palo Alto home. Additionally, Palo Alto tax payers allocate an annual six-figure allowance to help fund the center. Enough already. Other cities need to step up to the plate and do their share.
Of course, local communities do a lot to help the homeless, but again Phil pretends that they need to be as homeless-focused as Palo Alto. He needs to realize that homelessness is his town's chosen cause célèbre and it has been for decades. Other communities nearby, bring smaller or poorer or deciding NOT to attract out of area homeless, focus on other programs to help lower income, hungry or disenfranchised people. This is their right, as is Palo Alto's to help the homeless.
you cant trust anything these days.public officials and law enforcement has an uber alles attitude.they can do no wrong. well ,neither can we. sp ,police dont always rule,as police have not always been around. thankfully they wont always be. at least ewe can be sure the world will be rid of these poisonous authorities that wreak havoc on lives.
I'm curious where Imogene's response is to Craig. Craig showed up with the facts: the opportunity center sucks a ton of police resources. If the opportunity center doesn't have 24 hour on site armed security it should be required to.
Other than the parking enforcement person (three wheel cart), I only rarely see a police car in all of College Terrace. No comparison with the OC/Cub, where they are frequently there. However, try getting a police officer to enforce the complaint-based gas-powered leaf blower ban, and they claim to not the have the resources to show up in time. There is no doubt that various homeless issues are taking away police services from our neighborhoods.
The tail is wagging the dog in Palo Alto.
[Portion removed.] Craig should know that because of budget issues , the city cannot deal with all the code enforcement complaints. This has nothing to do with the opportunity center [portion removed.]
I know for certain there are a group of bike thieves operating out of the O.C. One morning while visiting, I heard a man boast he had ripped off three bikes that week, including one the day before which someone had parked in the rack right outside.
"How did you do that?" asked another resident.
"I have bolt cutters. Besides, if someone so dumb (sic) to leave their bike here, that's their fault. If I see what I want, I take it."
This sort of environment leads to more of the same, and anyone who leaves their bicycle here for any length of time should take note of the fact that it's being targeted. The PAPD should also note, they could probably solve a few stolen bike cases themselves just by hanging around the O.C. more often.
> From July 1, 2012, to Aug. 15, 2013, police responded to
> 254 calls for service at the Opportunity Center. Of those,
> 37 resulted in police reports with 19 arrests.
If the Opportunity Center were a bar--it probably would have been shut down by the ABC by now. The BBC (Menlo Park) certainly did not have this kind of record before it became history.
Wonder why the police are not pushing for some meaningful changes in the operation of this establishment?
"From July 1, 2012, to Aug. 15, 2013, police responded to 254 calls for service at the Opportunity Center."
Wouldn't it be way more cost effective to station a police officer there full time?
""From July 1, 2012, to Aug. 15, 2013, police responded to 254 calls for service at the Opportunity Center. Of those, 37 resulted in police reports with 19 arrests." (from the original article)"
I am wondering why everyone takes this claim from Craig as being the actual facts. Where is the original article that he says this is from???
> where is the data to back up Craig's claim?
Well..it's in the Weekly article above?
Palo Alto police spokesman Lt. Zach Perron said the attack on Sarmago was well outside the norm of what police typically see at the center.
From July 1, 2012, to Aug. 15, 2013, police responded to 254 calls for service at the Opportunity Center. Of those, 37 resulted in police reports with 19 arrest
>Wouldn't it be way more cost effective to station a police officer there full time?
It might be, but that would be up to OC supporters to PAY for a full time officer 24/7, so that resources are not removed from our police needs in our neighborhoods (as they currently are). Assuming a FTE of about $150k/year for each officer, and three 8-hour shifts, that would be about $450k per year for proper security. It might be more, due to weekend (overtime?) duties.
Not so sure about the comment regarding people not dining at T&C after dark. We were there after dark on a week night about two weeks ago...all of the restaurants (except Kirk's) were full, there was a line for the new ice cream shop, people at Cold Stone, etc.
The Opportunity Center is just one of many homeless services located in Palo Alto. We have a disproportionate number compared to the other cities in our region. That leads directly to a disproportionate number of those seeking those services being involved in criminal activity, substance abuse, and/or dealing with mental health issues. These issues conversely lead to a disproportionate number of police calls and other public resources being utilized. And so it goes.
"It might be, but that would be up to OC supporters to PAY for a full time officer 24/7, so that resources are not removed from our police needs in our neighborhoods (as they currently are)."
Actually, no,Craig. It would not be up to supporters of the OC to pick up the tab. The OC is part of the city and is therefore covered by the local police.
We realize that you have something against the homeless and social services, but the people that support the OC do not have to pick up the tab.
"Not so sure about the comment regarding people not dining at T&C after dark. "
An example of scare tactics and unsubstantiated claims by people who are against social services for those less fortunate. Claims like that can and should be ignored
"There were five cases of simple battery, four of domestic violence, five outstanding warrants and a range of other cases, including one sex crime, according to Perron."
So what where the other 200+ calls for????? ARe we sure his numbers are right????
"so that resources are not removed from our police needs in our neighborhoods (as they currently are)."
Care to substantiate that claim, Craig??? Where are police needs in other neighborhoods ignored because of the OC???
Please provide examples, with citations.
>Actually, no,Craig. It would not be up to supporters of the OC to pick up the tab. The OC is part of the city and is therefore covered by the local police.
You are making my case for me! If the OC was not built, that cost would not be a cost to our city. This was predicted before the OC was built, and denied by its promoters. Now it is fact. Time for them to make up the difference. Otherwise, just shut down the OC.
>Care to substantiate that claim, Craig???
Our police budget is a zero-sum issue...tie them up at OC/Cub, and then there is less money left to protect our neighborhoods. Duh?!
"Our police budget is a zero-sum issue...tie them up at OC/Cub, and then there is less money left to protect our neighborhoods."
aNSWER the question, Craig. You said neighborhood policing was effected--give examples--which crime calls were not responded to because the police were at the OC. I think most people realize that police are not constantly responding to calls. Just because they are at the OC, does not mean they are ignoring the "neighborhoods".
But I will be happy to see your proof for your claim with legitimate citations.
I doubt we can ever challenge the permanency of the Opportunity Center. It is here to stay. What we can do is to continue to pass local ordinances, such as the vehicle dwelling ban, that can further limit Palo Alto from becoming a magnet city for those seeking services from throughout the Bay Area.
We already go above and beyond when it comes to outreach services compared to any other city in our region. As a result we get more than our fair share of the negative fallout. Enough already. I don't think anyone is surprised by the number of police calls and the reported problems that exist at the Opportunity Center. Other cities can start picking up some of the slack and responsibility.
I hope the victim sues the hell out of the Opportunity Center and the Stanford E/R, both for negligence.
Wanda - why do you think that the ER screwed up? IIRC, the victim declined further help or didn't say she had a head injury or something similar. She also might have refused further treatment/tests.
I would assume/hope that residents of OC would be asked to leave if convicted of a crime. BTW according to Paly kids, one of the easiest ways to get beer and wine isto give OC residents $$ to go to CVS and let them keep the change.
And what about the children who get sexually abused in this place and no police gets called. There needs to be more supervision to protect our kids. At least grown ups know they can scream.
>I think most people realize that police are not constantly responding to calls. Just because they are at the OC, does not mean they are ignoring the "neighborhoods".
Yes they are. I have called them several times and they don't show up. Reason? 'Our resources do not allow it, unless it is a serious criminal offense'. When I ask them about code enforcement, they almost laugh at me. Essentially, we are giving up neighborhood code enforcement because OC/Cub, etc. are taking up our resources.
"You are making my case for me!"
there is no case to be made.
"If the OC was not built, that cost would not be a cost to our city. "
If, if, if. Water under the bridge
"This was predicted before the OC was built, and denied by its promoters. Now it is fact."
Who predicted this? You?
" Time for them to make up the difference. Otherwise, just shut down the OC."
That is not how policing works in this city.
The OC will not be shut down to appease the stone hearted in the city.
(Note--the above innocuous comments were censored by the editors of this forum. Not sure why.Care to enlighten us???)
"Essentially, we are giving up neighborhood code enforcement because OC/Cub, etc. are taking up our resources."
You make this statement over and over again, Craig. But provide no proof. Care to provide some now? Duh!!!!!!
Here we go, from this publication, in July, when the icnident was first reported to the public:
"The woman was later identified as Vivian (Venus) Sarmago. Initially police believed Guilford had scratched Sarmago, who had minor marks on her forearm and neck. She declined medical aid because she had a later doctor's appointment, but she signed a private person's arrest. There were no known witnesses at the time, Villaescusa said."
"Later that day Sarmago went to the doctor and described her injuries. She was released from the emergency room after 20 to 30 minutes, according to the police report. While walking with her boyfriend that afternoon, she complained about having a headache. The couple later went to bed and fell asleep. When the boyfriend awoke, he realized that Sarmago was not looking well and could not be awakened. She was unconscious when paramedics arrived, and she was taken to the hospital, Villaescusa said."
It's pretty easy to blame the ER, but there aren't facts right now supporting that blame.
I'm still surprised to hear that for so long, the security there has been so lax.
Sounds like the Stanford Emergency Room Triage did not do their job and just rushed her through. They do that to non-wealthy patients!
For those commenting on location -- a key factor in providing services is proximity to public transportation. That would not be possible in many Palo Alto neighborhoods. Additionally, proximity to stores helps those who do not have cars.
Finally, it seems that some see the solution as "all or none" (get rid of it, etc.). Clearly there is need for better security that must include checking IDs and limiting access to the housing areas. This is a tragedy, but talk to those who have been helped by the transitional housing and services provided by the Opportunity Center before dismissing its impact in the community.
That being said, the problems cited certainly lend support to the decision to shut down homeless camping at Cubberly. The ability to provide security there is even more challenging. It is unfortunate, but we must find a way to ensure safety as well as provide assistance -- not an easy problem to solve.
Leaving a PAMF building on Encina in my car one recent afternoon, I was approached by one of a group of females congregating in the street outside the OC. She was screaming & pounding with her fist on my stopped car. I couldn't drive away because there were more people in the street in front of me. She was not rational but that didn't make me feel any safer. After a couple of minutes, someone moved enough so I could get to El Camino & out of there.
Prior to that incident, I've seen money & folded paper changing hands in the middle of street when exiting the car wash. I've also seen beer-drinking outside. Is a person allowed to drink alcohol outside, sell drugs, and go on psycho-rants at passers-by & still live there? It isn't supposed to be a mental health outpatient facility, is it? I thought OC was to provide medium-term housing & job search assistance to people who were clean & sober.
It's very sad that Ms. Samargo was so badly injured. It sounds as if the assaulter was a frequent visitor. OC needs to clean up its act or shut down. If they have rules, their staff should enforce them. People live there to be safe & there should be limits to non-resident visiting. Is consent to random drug testing a requirement for residency? It should be.
Me? I now get my car washed elsewhere & cut through the main PAMF campus or T&C to get to the Encina cul-de-sac, to avoid ever finding myself threatened again.
>I thought OC was to provide medium-term housing & job search assistance to people who were clean & sober.
I was here, in Palo Alto, during the debate. My recollection was that the OC was supposed to be 'housing first', with the hope that residents would want to enter recovery from dope and booze. Bad model, IMO, and guaranteed to fail. The cons, who know how to game the system, will almost always beat the system...until they get arrested and thrown into jail. Any facility like the OC should mandate a clean blood/urine test on a random weekly basis, to prove that drugs and booze are no longer part of the problem. I don't think it will happen, because the OC is just a cover to provide welfare housing, and not to correct the underlying issues.
In the meantime, Palo Alto residential property owners are watching our franchise slowly decay, because liberal guilt has owned the day for the past 3 decades or so. A new day is in front of us, and it will not include such guilt, IMO.
Craig - Thank you.
I agree that providing 'housing first' without a concurrent requirement for no use of alcohol or drugs is useless. It also sounds as if there's little restriction or supervision of 'visitors'. Are 'visitors' allowed to stay overnight? I hope that answer is "No."
OC beneficiaries should be required to observe rules to protect the safety of all & drug/alcohol use should be grounds for immediate eviction. OC should shape up or shut down.
'Neighbor' in Greenmeadow apparently has a case of nimby, saying OC is useful but using it's problems as a reason to ban car-camping at Cubberley. One argument that person uses is proximity to stores. Which? T&C Village? Stanford Shopping Center? Are the residents supposed to find nutritious food at CVS? Proximity to a big supermarket would be more beneficial. Like Piazza's or Safeway.
Actually, Greenmeadow's comments are thoughtful & rational. What's needed here is a major education of readers to understand what the OC is supposed to be & how well it meets those goals.
I recall a dinner I had w/someone who'd been instrumental in its founding & I learned a lot from her. I'm pretty cynical about the success of these types of endeavors. However, it this dinner was a couple of years ago & continuing funding impacts may have changed things there. The lack of security is very telling - & it's frightening. I also have had some encounters w/OC folks at PAMF & T&C. I totally understand the need for proximity to public transpo. But like others, I've also changed my routes a bit, & am much more watchful & cautious when in that area.
All in all, I wouldn't be surprised if there is a shooting, stabbing or murder there, given how much they don't care about security - incl the public safety impact on others.
Downtowner -- It seems that the NIMBY accusation comes up every time someone offers an opinion about appropriate locations for things. The comment about Cubberly wasn't because it is in my neighborhood - the homeless has not impacted me at all, nor those in my immediate area (am closer to Alma than Middlefield).
My comment was related to the frequency of young children using the fields at Cubberly, how the space would be difficult to monitor because of its size, and the inability of ANY police department to be provide a constant presence. While far from optimal, high school students are more able to avoid or handle bad situations than are the 7 or 8 year olds that frequent Cubberly. Additionally, the OC is a finite space with on-duty security. It seems that increasing the hours and extent of security would go a long way in reducing at least some of the problems, as would enforcing visitation policies. Solutions for Cubberly would require infinitely more resources and be much more difficult to manage.
Despite all the problems, the O.C. does provide desperately needed residences for responsible, educated people who have disabilities that prevent them from working. The troublemakers attract the news, but there are plenty of residents (including parents and children) who are benefiting from the O.C. and need a safe environment. Can't alcoholics and drug users who create trouble be evicted?
neighbor - you said - "Additionally, the OC is a finite space with on-duty security. It seems that increasing the hours and extent of security would go a long way in reducing at least some of the problems, as would enforcing visitation policies." Isn't this the problem - the security? The attacker was reportedly drinking ALL DAY. Why was a non-resident allowed there for such a long period of time - & drinking? He allegedly attacked the victim because he thought she reported him to the manager. Why hasn't security been more proactive to PREVENT these types of horrible happenings?
The bike thief doesn't sound educated nor did the street screamers. The best solution, as concerned, points out, is to evict alcohol & drug users & monitor that status with random testing.
How could the "responsible, educated people...with disabilities" or "parents and children" be safe living in the same place as "troublemakers" since there's never more than 1 one guard, visitor identities aren't checked or logged, and security cameras aren't used in the daytime? Maybe use of the security cameras and an attentive guard could have minimized or prevented the daytime attack on Ms. Sarmago? With 90 units, maybe 200+ people (maybe more depending on how many kids live there) in a multi-story building, clearly OC needs to step up it's game. If the 'deserving' residents get free housing, allowing troublemakers is a clear disservice to them & the surrounding community. Random drug testing would be a small price to pay for innocent residents to be protected.
A couple of daytime drug busts might get rid of some of the visitors, too.
Terrible, terrrible violent crime and so sorry for the victim. As a profesional I had frequented the premises many times and agree their security was poorly organized and understaffed. However, the Encina complex of services, and the hard working employees have helped so many rebuild their lives and move on. As a resident of this community I would hope we would not continue this elitist sprawl without applying some advanced thinking to making this work.
Some people in this community, you can read their comments above. They do not care about the good the OC does. They do not care about the vast majority of good people that use the services there. The fact that people are trying to rebuild their lives does not interest these people. They just cherry pick bad incidents and demand thatbthe OC be closed. These people are selfish, self centered and Have no compassion for those less fortunate then them.
Speaking of selfish & self-centered, some of the reports about behavior at the OC aren't exactly examples of shining goodness, even factoring in that they're down on their luck. The OC, like people, isn't a black & white situation. It requires better security, as the public & its clients deserve. That's not hard to figure out. How hard can it be to implement, for pity's sake?
I thought a few years ago that it would be nice for the neighborhood birds to put up a feeder.
But, the birds flew in from all over everywhere when the word got around that there was good stuff for free.
The bird poop built up, and after a while I decided to remove the feeder. No more poop.
Is there a lesson here as we look at the Opportunity Center?
@Hmmm - yes, that is my point exactly. A significant improvement in security should address many of the problems identified -- substance use, not checking credentials of visitors, increasing hours and intensity monitoring the facilities and surrounding area, etc.
@PolicySage -- that you would compare a situation involving people with birds and bird waste is beyond belief. Your lack of compassion and desire to look for reasonable solutions tells me that you have a hard time caring about others. That's sad. And disturbing. I can only hope you didn't intend to make such a hurtful comparison.
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