Posted by Chuck Jagoda, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Jul 23, 2012 at 12:02 pm
Thanks for this article. It may help explain what happened at Cubberley to the unsheltered people who live there later that Thursday night after the meeting you describe.
Police came and shown flashlights into people's vehicles and faces and informed them they had three days more to live there. If they were there Monday night (tomorrow), they will be cited.
The Community Cooperation Team was formed a year ago to deal with the then-impending ordinance against vehicular habitation. We (unsheltered people, local homeowner/activists, and committed Stanford students) formed to fight that proposed ordinance. So far the good will of the citizens of Palo Alto, our efforts, and the far-sightedness of the City Council have staved off the dreaded ordinance.
What's wrong with the ordinance is the same thing that's wrong with evicting people who live in their vehicles and camp on the ground from Cubberley--it only makes everything worse. And solves nothing.
Homelessness is not something you dream about achieving. You go homeless only when everything else is an even worse choice: you're getting beaten regularly where you now live, you can't find anywhere to live that you can afford, or you lost your job (home or unemployment) and living without conventional shelter is better (safer, cleaner, more legal).
Cubberley has obviously been a community resource for all segments of the community for many years. Let the committees you mention keep that in front of them as they deliberate. Not only are the little, poor, diverse organizations an integral part of the health of the community (diversity in a population is a strong contributor to survival)but have nurtured the interests of generations of children and adults. Please keep that in mind.
And besides things like cardiac care, yoga, wounded animals, art, and teen socializing--Cubberley is an important resource for those of us who sleep there.
Is there anyone who thinks that taking away a place for peaceful people to sleep will improve anything in the community in anyway? If so, I'd like to learn what that improvement is and how making people already unsheltered deal with yet another blow to their survival and stress levels would help.
Is there someone who has another place for us to go? Perhaps you can suggest a neighborhood who'd like more unhoused residents? Maybe a street where the residents are lonely for neighbors?
I'll tell you where unsheltered people have been MOST welcome--businesses or institutions--like the Palo Verde Elementary School that just lost $5400 worth of computers to theft (lead story in this edition of Palo Alto Online 7/22/12)--which would like to cut down on graffiti, trespass, break-ins, and theft. In communities that match recreational vehicle or car campers with businesses or institutions that want a cheap way to cut down on vandalism, there have been significant reductions in such problems.
The whole effort to push unsheltered people out--making San Francisquito Creek a park so no one could live there, Palo Alto's sit/lie ordinance, closing of single room occupancy hotels in downtown Palo Alto, tearing down of cheaper motels on El Camino, the rules against hanging out in public spaces that the City Council adopted recently, and the still-under-consideration-but-not-voted-on ordinance against people living in or out of their vehicles--it's all going in the wrong direction.
First of all it won't make poverty, homelessness, or people doing publicly things others do in private--cause they have private homes in which to urinate, defecate, drink, smoke, and lounge about--go away or even remain out of sight. Go to any urban (or even rural) location and you'll see street people, unsheltered folk, people parading problems publicly.
Secondly, the present onslaught to transfer money from the poorest of us to the richest (AKA The Great Recession, Housing Bubble, Credit Crisis, etc., etc.) of us is not over. Many more--people you know or are related to--will be stricken with the tragic trifecta: joblessness, foreclosure, and homelessness.
Thirdly, the surest way to continue to have a problem is to ASSUME you must always have it. So what we all should be doing is some of that creative problem solving mentioned in the article on Cubberley (to which we'll get back to in a moment) to SOLVE the problems WE have.
And I emphasize WE because in case you missed Marshall Mc Luhan who was born a hundred years ago and blew up in the 60s when he taught us that "the medium is the message," we are all part of "a global village."
In more ways than he meant it we ARE all together in this. We can no longer look at those less fortunate and ignore them. It's like we're all together on this world-wide airliner and if the people in third class go down, those in the more expensive seats go down as well. Like on the Titanic.
And didn't Jesus say "as you do unto the least of your brethern, you do unto Me"?
And is that what you want you're children to learn? To avoid, ignore, shun those less fortunate? In the better schools in this nation students are REQUIRED to volunteer at some community agency in order to graduate.
And what about this Cubberley situation? I think ABSOLUTELY creative problem solving should be involved. And what about all the local classes in public schools, in Stanford, apparently EVERYWHERE--where students learn how to be entrepreneurs for the betterment of all? I read about a course at Stanford like that where students do things like start a business to make you regulation of stress during the day a matter of fairly automatic feedback through your smartphone.
Do you really think poverty, houselessness, being out of work can stand up to the creative brain power of the titans and tots of Silicon Valley? You'd have to be from somewhere a long way from here to answer in the affirmative.
So let's get going, Folks. How about a couple of Palo Alto's richest getting together and sponsoring a local prize for (even small but) creative solutions for keeping Cubberley as a community resource that encourages and expands the fertile incubator for small, not well funded community activities and resources for unsheltered people that Cubberley is and has been for a long time.
The answers can be many and small. They don't have to on a par with the Marshall Plan. Just let's keep some basic principles of what we've got and not lose that as we solve problems of funding; infrastructure--speaking of which, maybe some of the contractors who've built the homes in the area contribute in kind help to rehab the roofs and other things that need work; and long range planning.