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Homeless woman found dead in downtown Palo Alto

Original post made on Mar 31, 2008

Mary Ann Morgan had tried for years to stop drinking and straighten out her life, Eileen Richardson, the director of the Downtown Streets Team in Palo Alto, said. Morgan, 61, was found dead last Friday morning in a downtown alley near University Avenue. The cause of death is not known.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, March 31, 2008, 3:21 PM

Comments (32)

Posted by Condolences, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 31, 2008 at 8:26 pm

I am really sorry to hear this story. Noone should have to die alone on the street. This woman evidently had issues that required help to resolve. I feel that we failed her as a society. So sorry.


Posted by solon, a resident of Professorville
on Mar 31, 2008 at 10:53 pm

The cause of her death should be investigated, probably will.
Was she asked or forced to leave her housing? How or why? Or are her belongings still there?
Was she on government benefits, did this pay her housing? Does anyone know a family member one could write a condolence card to?

Her landlord apparently was the City of Palo Alto, who appeared to know where she was sleeping, therefore allowing her to sleep there. If you allow someone to sleep in your garage, night after night, as the City of Palo Alto and the police do, night after night, refusing to enforce most laws against those called 'homeless' letting them seep, even freeze to death, because we are 'compassionate."

The City of Palo Alto, the City Council members, the Manger, the Asst Manger, the Police Department, Chief Johnson or anyone else who knowingly let her sleep in doorways or alleys or on public property with the reasonably predictable result, are responsible in various ways, morally,maybe legally, for her death.

Would you let a frail woman sleep outdoors on cold concrete in your carport,night after night? Would you be responsible for her, after say, a year or two? Is the City?

What is this,the second third or fourth person killed by our new parking garages, killed by our indifference, killed by our police department non-protection of these most vulnerable?

It seems horrible,and morally wrong, to et these vulnerable persons live and sleep in such risk and danger. They seem to be kept as kind of 'pets' by the City,to prove how human WE are, "WE did everything WE could" "WE gave her every opportunity"

Did we protect her? Did we?


Posted by Cast Blame, a resident of Southgate
on Apr 1, 2008 at 3:40 am

solon makes good points. We were told the Opportunity Center would help these sad individuals. Quite clearly the OC proponents are operating with blinders of compassion that prevent them from seeing the realities of their "clients".

This woman was a prior OC resident apparently who decided to live on the streets willingly. The homeless - including this woman - just don't have the capacity to exist in a high tech, expensive area like Palo Alto - and yet we have the OC drawing them here. Once the frustrations of their contradictions become clear to them, they panhandle, harass residents, commit petty (and sometimes major) crimes, and routinely demonstrate their inability to exist easily - let alone live productive lives - in our town where they are woefully misplaced.

And eventually we have tragedies like this - the direct result of the "compassionate" moralists in town who use the homeless as props in their complex street theater playing guilt games with a gullible public and credulous officialdom. Shame on the people who push for the OC and for policies that allow this kind of thing to happen. Shame.


Posted by Personal Responsibility, a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 1, 2008 at 7:53 am

Hey Solon,

Where were you? You talk about the society with an obvious reference to the government. The government is not competent enough nor should it be chartered to support in this way.

You stated that this woman was "killed by our police department non-protection of these most vulnerable".... are you kidding me?!?!? The police killed her huh? Not the years of bad decisions and alcoholism?

Keep thinking that the government is chartered to take care of us from cradle to grave.....be a socialist...vote Obama!


Posted by FREEDOM, a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 1, 2008 at 9:16 am

This woman died from three ailments

Alcohol
Indifference
and
The Palo Alto Poverty Pimps (PAPP)

These PAPP are the same people who are more than willing to tell you how to live. Yet some how the PAPP have the power to stop the police from enforcing the law on vagrants. Yet, we see and unfortunately hear from them everyday, crying for more taxes to help the people that do not care for help. My message to the PAPP people leave me alone to my free will and mind your own business. If I break the law arrest me, other than that get off my cloud.





Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 1, 2008 at 9:28 am

Is it possible she left the shelter because of restrictions she did not care to honor? See my earlier correspondence on the need for a caravansery. Some people don't want to be helped, they just want to get out of the weather. Sometimes we are odd. We refuse to execute a man for premeditated murder but find no problem killing them for a failure to obey a dress code.


Posted by jjj, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 1, 2008 at 12:55 pm

i dont have home anymore cause police attacked me racially and i couldnt get benefits. i am lifelong bay area resident and long time palo alto resident


Posted by s, a resident of Southgate
on Apr 1, 2008 at 12:59 pm

the state allows you to lose job because of environmentally caused heath problemsd. you cant get financial help because the government doesent acknowledge environmental diseease. was a former loyal employee with my own residences in palo alto. couldnt get ''benefits'' was subject to and have witnessed traumatic police harassment of minorities and ''homeless'''. lost my home because of illness . america is a big lie if you are not born pretty or the right race...


Posted by stu, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 1, 2008 at 1:03 pm

what makes you think palo alto is drawing people here??/many have been 30 year residents and are still HARASSED and LIED about to police.


Posted by Personal Responsibility, a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 1, 2008 at 1:19 pm

Your own words destroy your argument...

quoting, "the state allows you to lose job because of environmentally caused heath problemsd"

What does that mean? Take responsibility for your actions. Please explain why the government must support you (social welfare) for your inability to keep a job. You were able to get a job now you have lost that ability? Did you get fired for your inability to spell correctly?


Posted by Paly77, a resident of another community
on Apr 1, 2008 at 2:13 pm

"This woman was a prior OC resident apparently who decided to live on the streets willingly. The homeless - including this woman - just don't have the capacity to exist in a high tech, expensive area like Palo Alto - and yet we have the OC drawing them here".
Those are the words posted by Cast Blame!
Okay, so who do you believe is qualified to live in "YOUR TOWN"?
I graduated from the PA school system! Served, educated, and trained by the US NAVY! Trained, and worked in the local Laser industry! And you know what? I cannot even dream about living in "YOUR TOWN"!
In fact, it sounds like I do not even qualify to live in "YOUR EXPENSIVE TOWN"!
Well I have only one thing to say to Cast Blame, and those who share the same view point.
I now truly feel I wasted my time defending our way of life while SERVING in the US Navy! Hope you people are happy now!


Posted by Personal Responsibility, a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 1, 2008 at 2:43 pm

As a former Marine, the military trains you to think for yourself and take personal responsibilty, it doesn't allow you to afford a house that is in general terms...very expensive. The military does not give you the fish but teach you how.

Note: The Navy is a great taxi cab for the Marines....


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 1, 2008 at 3:32 pm

Aw, come on, Jarhead. If it weren't for the navy I would have had to walk to war. I can't live in lots of places, including here if I had to start today. Houses are cheap in Trona and Barstow. If you do Trona, say hi to the guys at the plant for me.


Posted by Jack, a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 1, 2008 at 4:39 pm

Being on the streets and in poor health....ones body can only take so much. This story is not surprising to me.


Posted by downtown., a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 1, 2008 at 6:27 pm

"As a former Marine, the military trains you to think for yourself and take personal responsibilty"

I guess that's why they shave your heads so you all look the same. Stop wasting money on stupid wars and use the money on the US people!

Kapish!


Posted by Walter E. Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 1, 2008 at 7:31 pm

Wars are stupid like fires are destructive and cancer is deadly - a failure to be prepared for war is fatal.


Posted by pkj, a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 1, 2008 at 8:03 pm

R.I.P. God Bless


Posted by Breakfast Menu, a resident of another community
on Apr 1, 2008 at 9:51 pm

@ Walter.... Wars are stupid like fires are destructive and cancer is deadly - a failure to be prepared for war is fatal.

True. 100% of the time.

yes, that is the way it is, Perfect


Posted by not-really-helping, a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 1, 2008 at 11:23 pm

I am sorry to hear about Mary Ann's death.

The Downtown Streets Team may help some folks, but Mary Ann's death is a prove that the DST needs to be revised. Mary Ann went to meetings, and she tried to change her life. She was one of the homeless people who believed that she could change, that is why she tried the DST.

Giving homeless folks a broom and making them use a bright yellow jacket/t-shirt does not help their lives or self-steam. They need serious help... they need mental help to cope with life.

And the OC rules.. I agree that they need rules. But those folks need shelter no matter what. If only the "well-behaved" can stay at the OC, the ones that is most in needed are left out. Where are those folks supposed to go?


Posted by Paly77, a resident of another community
on Apr 2, 2008 at 9:44 am

A few last thoughts.
1)RIP Mary.
2)With the foreclosure crisis, there could be a situation where there are whole families on the streets. Mary's passing should not be taken lightly by the city of Palo Alto.
3)The USMC are a group of hard working individuals, so do not take them for granted!
4)The OC shoud be embraced by all of PA. The city has a chance to show the world on how it could be done!


Posted by Ed, a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 2, 2008 at 11:36 am

Last I remember, the free shelters are in Sunnyvale and San Jose. The homeless CHOOSE to stay in Palo Alto. They CHOOSE to sleep in parking garages and parks. They CHOOSE to spend their money on alcohol/drugs instead of food. How dare Solon blame her death on the police. Yes, Solon, the police can kick them out of the WARMER and COVERED parking garages, but where do the homeless go next??

You live in a bubble....


Posted by yup, a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 2, 2008 at 12:22 pm

mary was very nice person to me. nicerv than most palo altans, had no idea she was that vulnerable. you who are using a persons death in a casual manner, putting down people who risk their lives daily for equal rights, are frankly, nauseating me.are you happy?


Posted by here's the truth, a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 2, 2008 at 10:29 pm

mary no longer lived at the oc because she couldn't obey the rules...stop abusing alcohol and drugs.

the truth is you could find mary sitting at bryant and university or passed out at cogswell park any time of the day. mary would usually be drunk by noon, and was known to smoke crack on many occassions.

do any of these things make her a bad person? no, but this is why she passed on. i can't believe the kind of things debated on here sometimes! a drug addict alcoholic dies...what a shocker that this person who had abused herself for so long has passed.


Posted by Walter E. Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 3, 2008 at 6:06 am

Most homeless would not be homeless if they were rule obeyers. There are a few rules I am not too thrilled with. We of course need a way for people to get back on their feet if they want to, but we also need to try and keep alive those who will not obey rules, as long as they are not harming others.


Posted by AnotherPaly77, a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2008 at 9:18 am

At least joining the NAVY and building lasers keep a roof over your head. FTN Terry!!!


Posted by Norm, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 3, 2008 at 3:14 pm

Mary Ann Morgan –
Damn,
Who knows what's right to say.
Cranky broad, when she was around downtown, and cranky when she wasn't.
Bitch – not an uncommon reference, not wholly inaccurate. Ask her friends. And I mean friends.
She tried, always.
Though not the best spokesperson for her efforts, the effort is what matters, regardless of who noticed or cared.
If you didn't notice, didn't care, perhaps the flaw is yours.
Beyond the superficial skim, any person is more than we see, more than we hear about.
Mary Ann had a lot to say, so much she couldn't release. Not politely anyway.
So much was rooted in anger, frustration. No question. Hostile, at times. Okay, no frigging doubt.
Was she wrong? Prove it.
She loved to touch, to feel the essence of all around her, even if it was those things and its most people dismissed.
And I don't mean just the flowers.
Mary Ann, so very different than the more famous one, but I spite of herself, as sweet and endearing in her own way.
Her feelings were not isolated, however she may have felt, she was never alone. She never would permit that, those regarded as friends always knew what was on her mind –much to our chagrin.
But she was reluctant to share how she really felt.
Does that make her different than me or you or another we hold dear?

So many could tell you what was wrong with her, but few can tell me what was wrong about her.
Maybe you never noticed her. but the crabby old broad will be missed.


Posted by Judith, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 3, 2008 at 5:08 pm

Thanks for the touching tribute, Norm. Bless her.


Posted by Henry, a resident of Professorville
on Apr 4, 2008 at 11:59 am

Dear Solon,

You must have come across the poor and destitute in your time. You ask what have we done as a society to help these people, but what have you done personally. Have you fed the hungry, brought someone home to provide them with shelter? Questions you may want to ask yourself before you place blame on society and local government. If you read the original story, you would find that Mary Ann frequently complimented the police department for checking in on her. The story also says that she voluntarily left the opportunity center. As far as society is concerned, Palo Alto alone offers numerous resources in terms of the opportunity center, food, drop-in centers, clothing, and temporary shelter. For you to point fingers at society simply paints you as being naive and uninformed.


Posted by Norm, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 7, 2008 at 3:19 pm

Judith -
Thank you
***************
Solon –
The City of Palo Alto was NOT Mary Ann's landlord. The apartments are managed by PMI, the housing management arm of the county housing authority.
As to the city and police "refusing to enforce most laws against those called 'homeless'", which laws are you referring to?
***************
Cast Blame-
What help do you believe the Opportunity Center should compel people to accept? And if the help is refused, what's the remedy, jail? (Hardly a cost-effective option, even if there was space.)
Which goes to your assertion regarding crime – which "petty (and sometimes major) crimes" do you ascribe to the unhoused population more so than the housed? Hell, which ones regardless of what the housed do?
What is the (your) litmus test for having "the capacity to exist in a high tech, expensive area like Palo Alto"? Should rental property be banned? Should Lytton Gardens or Palo Alto Commons be closed and replaced with McMansions for tech-heads?
Do you truly believe "them" are here because they were drawn by the OC? Why have "them" been around for decades when the idea of the OC is less then 10 years old? Perhaps the VA needs to move, it also attracts some of "them" to this community.
Query – if "they are woefully misplaced" in this community, where do you suggest is appropriate?
***************
Personal Responsibility-
As a gator sailor, I am grossly under impressed by your comments.
What happened to "once a Marine, always a Marine." Saying you're a former Marine speaks volumes. You don't buy the "semper fi" ideal? And what happened to "esprit de corps"? You sworn an oath to "preserve, protect and defend" this statement:
"...establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity...."
Is a blasť attitude for a "lesser" member of the national unit a retraction? Begs the question you threw Solon, where were you? Unwilling to fill in for a "government is not competent enough" to keep your vow?
(BTW: the Marine Corps Commandant serves under the Chief of Naval Operations. If the CNO says that Marines sit and sweat in 29 Palms, they sit and sweat in 29 Palms.)
Do you recall a Marine named Ira Hayes? He died with similar level of "dignity" as Mary Ann. Who was Ira? One of the Marines who raised, then re-enacted, the flag raising on Iwo Jima. He's part of the Marine Corps Memorial. Won the Congressional Medal of Honor. Then died years later from alcohol related disease on a reservation. He probably wasn't Palo Alto material either. True, in the '50's, techiness, wouldn't have been a factor, even income wasn't a monster barrier. Perhaps it would have been something more ethnic.
***************
FREEDOM-
Hate to bore you with the same question, but what laws are not being enforced? You cite "the law on vagrants", what law(s) are you referring to? I've looked at the PA Municipal Code, county odinances, and the state codes. The only reference to "vagrant" is hanging around a school yard. How does that apply to people around downtown? Perhaps you need to do some research rather than wishing your beliefs were true.
***************
Walter-
"Is it possible she left the shelter because of restrictions she did not care to honor?"
Mary Ann did NOT leave a shelter, her let a rented (lease and all) studio apartment. The only shelter that operates in town is the Hotel de Zink, which rotates sites monthly and does not use the OC.
We've bumped before on the caravansary proposal – sound idea, but the practicality lacks; and not because of the suggestion, it's the implementation. What would anyone allow it? How would you compel people to stay there?
***************
Palyy77
I gotta go with your sentiments. But I don't buy the flip-side where some would have to tell their grandma and kids don't even think about living here if you aren't techie or affluent enough to be allowed.
I still wonder about the "line" for living in Palo Alto.
I have stood in front of the city council and told them to invite the children of PA to not even think about living here, they will never be able to afford housing where they used to live. Don't try until your parents die and you inherit the house. Without more housing, that's the only way there will be a place.

***************
Ed –
You posted:
"Last I remember, the free shelters are in Sunnyvale and San Jose. The homeless CHOOSE to stay in Palo Alto. They CHOOSE to sleep in parking garages and parks....

You live in a bubble...."

Hate to burst your bubble and bum you out Ed, but the shelter you refer to in Sunnyvale was one of the two cold weather shelters which closed at the end of March. (National Guard space, RENTED from the state using grant money from the Feds and the county. Yes, folks, your tax dollars are used to rent space you own from yourself.)
Just a weird thought, would you sleep on a 2 inch mat in a dark room with 100 or so strangers? Oh, yeah, that's my first choice....
As far as the year-round shelters – they're full. Everyday. Santa Clara County only has shelter space for about 38% of the street population. Choose Palo Alto? If you were stuck on the street, where would choose?

***************
here's the truth –
Where did you get the information that those renting apartments at the OC had to conform to sobriety rules any different to any other person renting an apartment in this city?
Could we have the truth, not what you believe might be what you hope is true?
-----------

As for the "magnet" idea – rarer than one might think.
If someone changes hometown their entire support structure changes, from peers (much more important than is true for housed people, who can lock everyone out of their space) to non-profit organizations providing life-line needs.
If they shift counties, most governmental support stops and has to be re-applied for. Rules vary from county to county, even if it's not the county's money. Most states don't have uniform rules with-in the state. (Job security for bureaucrats? Definitely extra cost to the taxpayer. But the difference is to the "end-user" – generally high admin costs don't increase allocations to agencies, but to the benefit amount.)
If one changes states, only Social Security or VA benefits follow – after you re-establish mail service or a new bank account.
Try to convince me if Palo Alto, or even this county, are such a draw based of all that's provided, and all that's possible if Denver, Detroit, Augusta, Houston, and Seattle have larger street populations than Santa Clara County. Could it be their idea weather?

Hate me if you will, Mary Ann was Mary Ann. She had attitudes. She was a person. She liked me, respected me, and sought my council on occasion.
If you can't get past yourself to acknowledge she was as much a person as you believe you might be, (opinion) you are less than you believe.

P*** you off as it may:
Too often the choices we make are dictated by others. True. Get past it. Was it you who decided what job you could have, the house you could live in, the car that you drive? How's your mortgage rate? Comfortable? I don't believe it should be that way, but tell me it's not true.

Mary Ann didn't like it either.

I know I may have been a bit rude. But reality often is as well. Tyler, Jay, Bill, real is, as bad as it may be.

Want to shoot back? onceunhoused@gmail.com. Win, lose, straight debate works for me. Please, no simple piddle and moan, supported arguments and/or practical solutions only.


Posted by Norm, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 9, 2008 at 2:45 pm

For any who might be interested:

Memorial for Mary Ann Morgan
Friday April 1, 2008

Service at All Saint's Church (Corner of Waverley and Hamilton)
Service begins after Breaking Bread Meal, 12:45 PM @ the Church
Reception following at 1:45 PM at Parish Hall
Come eat lunch with us, attend the service and hear her friends speak or share your own words



Posted by thanks Norm, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 9, 2008 at 2:54 pm

Norm, thank you for your first post about Mary Ann. It was lovely. You did her a great service by personifying her for those who never met her. I assume the Memorial Service is this Friday, April 11?


Posted by Norm, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 9, 2008 at 3:22 pm

Sorry about the typo - yes it is the 11th, this coming Friday. (Library keyboards could us some work.)


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