Posted by Kevin, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Aug 27, 2007 at 1:39 pm
If you are waiting for Palo Alto to enforce its own laws, you will become old without satisfaction.
The best way to get rid of the bums downtown is to stop givng to them. Just say "no", then move on. Also, tell your local chruch that you do not want them enabling them, by becoming a magnet for services. Complain to the city council about the Opportunity Center (a big magnet). Complain to Whole Fodds that you will no longer shop there, if you have to face bums every day.
Posted by Resident, a resident of the Crescent Park neighborhood, on Aug 27, 2007 at 4:16 pm
Why does the Palo Alto Police Department and City Council refuse to address the homeless problem anywhere in Palo Alto? The Council's idea of addressing the problem is to quickly approve a homeless shelter...a magnet for those whose occupation is begging - primarily on University Avenue. The Palo Alto Police Department's response is to begin a "Restorative Policing" program that is in reality a clear sign that they do not intend to address the homeless/begging problem at all. I see police officers walk right by homeless who are aggressive about everyone giving them money. The police act as if there isn't a homeless problem. City Council is in it's own world and doesn't even acknowledge the problem. I suggest every concerned citizen become active on this issue and let City Council know how you feel.
Posted by Matt, a member of the Santa Rita (Los Altos) community, on Aug 27, 2007 at 5:16 pm
Everyday while biking to and from work I pass a homeless man on a bench at the corner of Coleridge and Bryant. It is a strange site in such an affluent area of Palo Alto. Today he had bags on his feet and his cart seemed bigger than usual. It is pretty sad. When I see him sleeping there, I always wonder if he might be dead.
Posted by JT, a resident of another community, on Aug 27, 2007 at 6:50 pm
What do you expect the police to do? The jails are all full. You live in a liberal community that built the Opportunity Center which attract the homeless. If you don't like it don't go Downtown, go to Mountain View or Menlo Park for your groceries.
Posted by I just live here, a resident of the Greenmeadow neighborhood, on Aug 28, 2007 at 5:58 am
We enable this problem; by supporting the homeless, and allowing our government to run us, rather than us run it. The homeless can do anything they want, but don't let your dog off leash or let it bark too much. And yes, the soccer players can come from other cities, use our parks, leave behind trash, drink liquor, and crap and pee on the grounds. But if you live here don't ride your bike down the wrong side of the street, park backwards.......This homeless around here are a joke, our parks and sidewalks are full of them. ANd that guy on the bench along the bike boulevard, he just moved there a few months ago after being at the corner of Embarcadero and Alma. I think he compliments the neighborhood, and he is kind of sexy........
Posted by a mother, a resident of the Community Center neighborhood, on Aug 28, 2007 at 11:28 am
The problem is more than just sidewalks. Do not try to use the restrooms in the libraries, because they are usually occupied by the homeless. And do not let your kids go to the restrooms in the parks by themselves, and you better know why.
Posted by Ben W, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Aug 28, 2007 at 11:54 am
We have the people who pushed for the "Opportunity" Center to blame or thank (depending on your attitude toward the "homeless") for this ongoing fiasco and meltdown of civil society.
While most of the folks who agitated for the Opportunity Center were and are well-meaning, it defies common sense to think that a center designed to service people who are incapable of caring for themselves would not attract more of them to our city. Along with these legions of unfortunates comes the problems and culture which accompany them.
The mentally ill, substance abusing majority of the "homeless" deserve our sympathy. But it does them no favor to attract them to the middle of a high-tech economy with some of the highest living costs in the nation as the opportunity center does - just so those who advocate for the homeless can demonstrate their moral superiority and compassion.
What good does it do to house a few inebriates in the center when their compatriots sleep on benches near a tony girl's school, beg for money on the streets and end up committing petty crimes on our residents? Who benefits when their behavior drives people away from local businesses? What are we proving by having this army of people unable to adapt themselves to the requirements of modern urban life in our midst?
The people who pushed for the opportunity center have some explaining to do as to why they continue to support this misguided policy - even after its demonstrable failure.
Shame on the activists who have used these poor homeless souls to push their warped social vision. Shame.
Posted by Restrooms, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Aug 28, 2007 at 4:15 pm
I went into a library restroom recently and was stunned to see the air steamy and a woman washing something in the sink. I didn't spend any time there. I glanced in the mirror and made a hasty retreat.
Posted by Joanna, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2007 at 10:30 am
I'd bet any amount that if you had his circumstances since birth that you'd be just like him. Homeless does not mean bum. The title bum is reserved for those who are quick to judge. Do you know anyone like that? Hmmm?
Yes, it is a problem here in PA and MP. It is annoying to pass them on the way into the store. I always see people giving money so I don't think it will change. I know the hearts of those shoppers are in the right place. There just has to be a better way than direct cash. Adding to the problem is that giving money to a non-profit charity might pad the wallet of an overpaid director or some fancy fundraiser. I really wish I knew how to help.
I can't just give money away without knowing where it is going. For instance, the pastor of my church drives an Audi A8 L Quattro. There is no way I'm giving money to the church.
Posted by Patty, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2007 at 11:28 am
There is a way to help, Joanna. Work for the closing of the Opportunity Center.
This facility draws the homeless, the drug-addicted, and mentally ill to an area where they have virtually no hope of finding a community into which they can integrate successfully. The Opportunity Center is the brainchild of activists and non-profit employees who profit by having more of these people in our midst.
While I do not question the good will of many - even most - of the people who supported the Opportunity Center, it should be obvious to all except that the most ideologically-blinded that it isn't "solving" any problem, and in fact is making a bad situation worse as noted by Ben W. above.
If the Opportunity Center property were sold, the money generated could be put to uses that actually have a chance of helping out the few among the homeless who genuinely have the capacity and the will to improve their lives. None of these people have much chance of blending successfully into the local economy and community even if their mental and social problems were solved.
Let's get serious in our town. We need to condemn those who would use the innocent homeless as a "living theater" props to demonstrate their morally superior "caring" ways and as pawns to be used to generate more contributions and support for the local homeless industry they wish to expand.
Posted by Church goer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2007 at 12:02 pm
I know this may be slightly off topic, but I think it is wrong of you to judge the Pastor of your church by the car he drives (or she). Most pastors, like the rest of us, live on a salary and can choose how to spend the salary the way they want. It may be that your pastor lives rent free, has very little in the way of dependents, and chooses a nice car as the one little luxury in life. That is I think quite appropriate.
If the church chooses to give its pastors very large salaries, then you can criticise the oversight. Most churches have to publish their accounts and they should be available to all church members. It may be that this particular church is not as scrupulous in others as to where its money is going.
Many churches do a very good job of being charitable with the money is is given for these purposes. They give where needed and generally their administration is working on a fixed budget for expenses which will remain the same regardless of how much money is donated by its membership and passed on to its charitable works.
Many people do donate to their churches and the money is passed on to where it is going without any problems. To smur the character of all by the passing observation of the car one particular pastor chooses for himself is doing the rest (and possibly this also) an injustice.
Posted by joyce, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2007 at 3:54 pm
"I went into a library restroom recently and was stunned to see the air steamy and a woman washing something in the sink. I didn't spend any time there. I glanced in the mirror and made a hasty retreat."
Am I alone in my reaction to this, thinking Thank God I don't have a life where I have to do my laundry in a library restroom?
What did you think was going to happen to you in that restroom, Restrooms?
Posted by Kevin, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2007 at 5:06 pm
"I'd bet any amount that if you had his circumstances since birth that you'd be just like him. Homeless does not mean bum. The title bum is reserved for those who are quick to judge. Do you know anyone like that? Hmmm?"
Really? How do you know about "his" circumstances? How do you know about mine? Bums are bums first, homeless second. I know several bums with unbelievably advantaged circumstances, yet they chose to become bums.
What is a bum?
1. A tramp; a vagrant.
2. A lazy or shiftless person, especially one who seeks to live solely by the support of others.
The mental cases should be institutionalzied, period. The ACLU prevents this. Blame the ACLU.
The rest are bums. Do not feel sorry for them. They made their own bed, and the rest of us cannot afford to allow our downtowns to be polluted by them. Arrest them, and put them in tent camps on Santa Cruz Island (with no booze or drugs available). Allow them to grow their own crops, raise goats, etc.. No work, no food, period. If ACLU lawyers come to visit them on the island, make sure they work for their own food, too.
In the meantime, shut down the Opportunity Center. It is a MAGNET for bums.
Posted by Peter, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2007 at 5:17 pm
Boy, Kevin, you seem to have a problem with the ACLU. In California, one of the prime reasons that there is no place for the mentally ill to go for treatment is that Ronald Reagan, when governer, shut down the institutions that took care of the most damaged and needy. His rationale was that the counties could take on the burden. They didn't.
I can't speak for the ACLU, but I believe they, in response to concerns by the mental health community about forced institutionalization without proper review or safeguards. These concerns had to do with people being committed who were not a danger to society or themselves, just victims of bad diagnoses or uncaring relatives.
The ACLU does work to defend your free speech and other constitutional rights, particularly when the governmental bodies who should be doing that infringe them.
Please investigate the work they do objectively, not through what appears to be an ideological filter.
And please, have some compassion for those less fortunate than yourself.
Posted by Kevin, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2007 at 5:30 pm
Not quite. Reagan wanted to save money; the left wanted to guarantee civil rights for those who cannot even understand the concept. The left said that half-way homes and drugs would take care of the problem. Reagan and the left cut a stupid deal. They were both at fault.
Rudy Giuliani broke the back of this vicious ideology, in NYC, by agreeing to provide shelter (at government expense), BUT he attacked the left, who were like you ("And please, have some compassion for those less fortunate than yourself"}. Rudy just arrested them, period. WHERE is the compassion, Peter, by leaving crazies and bums on the streets?
Posted by Ben W, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2007 at 6:15 pm
One need not use the pejorative "bum" or be unsympathetic to the condition of the disheveled denizens begging from our downtown benches and washing their laundry in our public library restrooms to recognize that the situation regarding these unfortunates is spiraling out of control in Palo Alto.
Indeed a strong case can be made ON THE GROUNDS OF COMPASSION that we should close the Opportunity Center which attracts them to an area where they cannot possibly have a successful existence and use the money saved to relocate those of them who are salvageable to rural areas where they can work unskilled jobs that would allow them to support themselves at the lower cost of living in these areas. True, most of them still would require some support and intervention for their various problems and this also could be provided at lower cost in rural areas. And in these areas they would be apart from many (not all) of the temptations of urban living and in a less complex environment where they might find an easier existence.
For those who will not relocate voluntarily, and who still remain after the magnet of the Opportunity Center is removed, we should be firm that we do them no favors by allowing them to continue anti-social behavior. We should have strictly enforced laws to which they, like all others on our streets, must conform.
Mentally ill and substance abusers for the most part respond to incentives just like the rest of us. If there is "no place for them to go" as a result of this, perhaps more of them will be induced to get treatment or to accept the inducements to relocate to areas more amenable to life for those with limited social and economic skills.
Most of all, we should not permit the non-profit other "advocates" to play upon our sympathies in this matter. They enriching themselves and engaging in unseemly moral grandstanding at the expense of the very "homeless" they claim to advocate for. Enough is enough.
Posted by Kevin, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2007 at 7:03 pm
Years ago I offered a well known bum in Palo Alto a job. He refused. Since his sign said, "Will work for food", I took a chance. He came up with every excuse in the world to say "no". He is a BUM. Get over it, Ben. Bums are bums.
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2007 at 7:52 pm
Here comes Wallis again with his caravansarie suggestion. Somewhere that homeless can have sanitry facilities and rudamentary shelter and minimal rules. And get off that Reagan closed the nut houses crap. Lawsuits and Liberal laws closed them.
Posted by Peter, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2007 at 9:31 pm
Yeah, let's just ship the undesireables out of town and let someone else deal with them; we don't want to look at them. What about old people and maybe those loud kids we don't like on our streets. Oh, yeah, how about people with beards. Maybe you have a beard and would prefer to see the beardless shipped off.
Posted by Ben W, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Aug 29, 2007 at 11:16 pm
No one is suggesting that the homeless be 'shipped off'. Rather the goal is 1. to stop attracting them to an area where they have very poor prospects of integrating successfully into the economy and community by closing the magnet facility that draws them, and 2. to invite those capable of and desiring a better life to relocate to a place where they can perhaps make a go of it.
No one is suggesting anything coercive - unless you count enforcing the laws as they apply to everyone else as "coercive."
I still maintain that "bum" really is a word we shouldn't use for these people. I have no doubt that Kevin's experience happened. But the person he encountered doubtless has mental and/or substance abuse problems. A bigger problem is that he may have been led by the local homeless advocates to see begging and his homeless status as morally justified - and especially to view it as society's fault, not a condition of his own making.
Many of the "homeless", if properly incented would stop their antisocial activities. But here in Palo Alto, they're not only permitted to engage in self-abasing behavior, they're encouraged to revel in it by an activist core who see the existence of the homeless as condemnation of the larger society. The activists preen in their own sense of higher virtue because they "care" while the rest of us don't.
It is this attitude which is most harmful to the homeless, many of whom might be encouraged to develop better life habits (in the face of their disabilities) if their behavior were condemned by the larger society rather than validated by activists wishing to make a larger point about society.
Posted by Joanna, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Aug 30, 2007 at 7:46 am
Church Goer: Point well taken. Thanks. I guess it all comes down to personal opinions.
Kevin: I see what's happening. You are talking about those who don't make the best of their circumstances and any resources that are available to them, like the person who refused a job. I was referring to the entire population of homeless, and not restricting it to those who you talk about.
All I am saying is that unless you can walk in their shoes (impossible) then it is unfair to make that judgment. Serious mental illness can make an otherwise "good" person do and say things that just don't make sense, either to you or themselves. I say treatment first, opportunity presented second, and solution evaluation third.
Patty: Thanks for the tip. I'll look into it. You make a good point. I think most of us are good people who want to help. Some, like me, withold funds, but feel TERRIBLE because we really do want to help but don't want to make things worse. Some give money with the best of intentions. All of us have good intentions that we want to channel correctly. Maybe your suggestion is the way to go about it.
Ben W: I couldn't agree with you more. Intelligent solutions, which neither we nor the city practice/have, are necessary for effective change.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Aug 30, 2007 at 8:43 am
Anon is wrong. The existence of other, or more important problems in the world than Palo Alto's homeless problem does not mean we cannot or should not deal with the latter.
It's very possible that through some concerted local action we can have beneficial effects on Palo Alto's homeless problem. It's less likely that we can do much about global weapons proliferation. (Even though we should vote for national leaders who take the issue seriously.)
To mock people who care about the plight of the homeless, and their effects on civil society is at best short-sighted myopia. At worst it reveals a mean-spirited mindset that if adopted by the public at large would result in a much less livable society - even if it were free of proliferated weapons.
Posted by Suzie, a resident of another community, on Aug 30, 2007 at 1:45 pm
All I did was wonder WHY there was still begging in front of Whole Foods. There IS a law against pan-handling in Palo Alto. I was just wondering......and the first answer from "Kevin" is the closest to the truth. As for all you mean-spirited folk...get a life!!
Posted by Answer to your question, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Aug 30, 2007 at 5:29 pm
I spent some time with a rep. from Palo Alto PD recently. I asked him about a few things including the new "sit/lie" ordinance. He told me while the ordinance was reportedly passed they have been directed from city legal folks to not enforce it yet as there are still protocols to work out. He was equally frustrated with the lack of enforcement tools they have at their disposal to deal with the transient issues. He explained that they do their best to keep the peace downtown and other places where transients congregate but they are limited in what actions they can take. The officer, who seemed extremely versed on matters of law and constitutional rights, said there are very few enforceable statutes that can be applied to someone who is just loitering in a public place. He shared with me that unless they can determine the person is drunk in public, has outstanding warrants, etc. there is little they can do to physically arrest them. As far as the other matters of urinating in public, or soliciting in violation of a posted sign, these are acts the officer must witness on order to issue a citation. The only alternative is for citizens to volunteer to make a citizens arrest for something they witnessed. The officer told me that generally people are reluctant to do so for fear of retribution even though he has explained to people how remote that chance is. Making a citizens arrest isnít like in the movies he explained, it just means you have to get involved a little by signing a form, and being willing to testify in court (though a trial is unlikely in such minor matters.) The officer spoke of the seemingly ten fold increase he and his partners have seen in their response to Encina Ave and the surrounding areas since the Opportunity Center moved in. He said just in the past months, the Opportunity Center area is where they have been involved with foot pursuits with fleeing parolees, arresting crack cocaine users, a mentally disturbed suspect who broke in to a store with his bare hands. He also said that almost everyday they respond to the Opportunity Center for something be it a fight or what have you. I asked him what they normally do to combat the homeless problem and he said they respond to calls from the public about soliciting, or a person lying in the street, and if they can they take action. If they can issue the person a ticket or arrest them for something they do but often there isnít something they can take action against. I asked him if they refer people to other services and he said they have offered most of these people help via some pamphlets but most donít do anything with the advice. He said the department does itís best to help these people but their primary focus is law enforcement.
I noted how busy this officer and all the other offices I saw seemed so I asked about how their staffing is. He said that he believed they were short some officers and said that it is generally quite busy when he comes to work. He said they have difficulty dealing with the problems I was asking him about, all the wile dealing with the myriad of other problems in all the other parts of town. Honestly before I talked to this officer I was under the impression the police didnít really care about the homeless problem, but my opinion changed after speaking to this officer. I think the police can really only take action on what we the people have enacted in to law. I think when you live in a decent sized City like Palo Alto; there are lots of crimes that go on all the time, even when well informed citizens donít realize it. I think our police force is under staffed and could use a few more cops on the street. Iím not really interested in how many cops we have per capita compared with other cities in the area because I think our city is quite unique. I know for one, I would be happy to pay a little more to have some more cops on the street. I for one (please donít hate me for saying this butÖ) could do without a library or go without an art project downtown if it meant more officers would be on the street protecting us. After speaking with an officer from our police department I saw that this isnít a little town where no crime happens. This town has all the same crime problems as other decent sized cities. The cops I met seemed really smart and like they really like catching bad guys. I think we need to get whoever are the decision makers in City Council or the Cityís legal staff to give our cops some more tools they can use to enforce the sit/lie ordinance or whatever else will help them curb the homeless problem. There are only so many cops to go around and if we want them to be everywhere at once we should give them some more ordinances, put more of them on the street, and not be afraid to get involved if we can help.
If you have a minute, ask to speak with one of the officers we have. They will tell you whatís really going on. I found it pretty interesting and you may as well.
Posted by Chuck, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Aug 30, 2007 at 5:48 pm
Great post, Answer, and a very valuable addition to the discussion.
My read of your post is that this is more grist for those of us who say it is time to close the Opportunity Center. Not only does it attract problem people to our community, in doing so it also taxes our already over-burdened police force.
It should be noted that other cities don't have the kinds of problems Palo Alto does with transients. The biggest part of this is their lack of an Opportunity Center magnet. But I would be willing to bet that a large part also is that their police get clearer directions from the political branch about the proper way to handle homeless people who harass citizens. Their police likely don't have the 'sensitive' worry about enforcing even our feeble sit/lie ordinance Answer describes.
I witnessed a Mountain View officer dealing with a disheveled person near Castro street (at St. Joseph's Church). I don't think that person had any doubt about what would happen if he stuck around in Mt. View. He's probably panhandling on University Ave now.
Posted by Answer to your question, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Aug 30, 2007 at 6:02 pm
Chuck, Itís interesting you mention how a Mountain View officer dealt with a homeless guy. I actually watched my contact that I spoke to from Palo Alto Police dealing with some guys he stopped in a car. He was definitely was a take charge guy you are describing and an imposing figure. He plainly put the thugs he stopped in their place. I forgot to mention in my original post how my contact at PAPD told me an interesting story about what happens to them when they come on strong with the bums downtown. He said sometimes when they do take assertive action against the homeless they are berated by a passing citizens with words like ďDonít you have anything better to do than pick on a poor homeless guy?Ē It seemed they were damned if they do and damned if they donít. I think that is why they rely heavily on what is legal and what is not. For instance, I doubt an officer can legally enforce a statement to a bum that you better get out of here or else. They probably are just saying that hoping to get rid of them. I think not only closing the Opportunity Center is a great idea, but also having people watch the way they speak to officers might be a good idea as well. If one has a complaint, perhaps take it up with the lawmakers and rule makers, not those we hired to enforce those rules. Maybe itís naive of me but I think the more officers there are, the more they will be able to deal with each issue that comes up. For instance, I thought their used to be a team of officer that dealt with just the downtown area. I think they worked on bicycles. My recollection is that budget cutbacks did away with this. PAPD does have a special crime suppression team but they are likely dealing with the myriad of other crimes in town. I am not advocating using our current allotment of officers in some new fangled downtown detail but rather think we should somehow advocate for the force to have more officers so they can develop other strategies for dealing with the homeless.
Posted by Kevin, a resident of the Embarcadero Oaks/Leland neighborhood, on Aug 30, 2007 at 7:10 pm
Bums won't stand very long...it takes too much effort. They sit and lie for long periods, then get on their feet, and in your face, when they see an easy mark coming their way.
How is it that Rudy Giuliani can clean up NYC, but our City Council hasn't a clue? Rudy understood that it was cruel to leave the mentally ill out on the streets. He also knew that the bums were no longer in charge, in NYC.
The first thing for everyone in PA to to do is to say "NO" when they are hit up for money. That would be a huge cultural change for PA. Nothing will happen until that cultural change takes place.
Posted by Benjamin, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Aug 31, 2007 at 5:46 pm
I usually don't have problems with PA bums, because I say no, then move on. If they get in my face, I get right back in their face. However, I had a rare experience, today, in Midtown, where I was confronted with a very aggressive, psycho-looking, hard ass bum that wanted money. I said "no". He said, "f*** you". I said, "What part of "no" you don't understand?". He walked away. I went into the store and did my business. When I came out, he was into it with another customer, who was entering the store. This time it was louder, but same basic result.
My question is: How do we know that these psychos do not have weapons? Are they on probabtion for violent crimes? Sex predators? On their meds? My impression is that these guys are becoming more aggressive. Are the police shaking down these guys, like they do in Mt. View? If not, why not? Do we need to wait for a murder, before we get them cleared outta here?
The mental cases need to be arrested and placed, against their will, in mental institutions. The rest of the bums should be arrested, and shipped out to a remote place. Like someone said, they can grow their own food. If they get testly with that opportunity, let them fight among themselves.
Above all, we need to shut down the Opportunity Center. It is a real magnet, and it it is serving to diminish middle-class life in Palo Alto.
Posted by Anna, a resident of the St. Claire Gardens neighborhood, on Aug 31, 2007 at 6:13 pm
Benjamin makes a good point about the danger these mentally unstable persons pose. If they could think clearly, they wouldn't be doing what they're doing. And yet, they're permitted to roam unfettered all over town. I know the guy camped out across from Casteleja School was still there a week ago. Will he still be there when the girls come back to school?! Just a month ago, we had the guy from the opportunity center bashing in windows at Town and Country.
It's just a matter of time before something tragic happens. It won't be difficult to figure out who to blame (for example, Web Link) , but it will be hard to fathom why it wasn't prevented in advance since it obviously is all but inevitable to anyone not blinded by ideology.
Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Aug 31, 2007 at 7:09 pm
The Opportunity Center also houses many families - with kids in our school district. They are part of our community.
I personally have actually noticed fewer homeless downtown since the Opportunity center opened - mostly the "regular" who have been around for years (including shower cap man, currently hanging out near Castileja)
Posted by Ben W, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Aug 31, 2007 at 9:38 pm
I defy PA mom, or anyone to show that more than a few (if any) of the denizens of the Opportunity Center were "part of the community" before they were attracted here by the OC. They mostly came from somewhere else - probably someplace where they might have fit better into the community.
The people, particularly the few (again, if any) families with kids in our schools, at the Opportunity Center are done no favor when they're invited to attempt to integrate into a community with Palo Alto's demographics. How are they going to be productive, or even participating, members of our community even if they are cured of their mental and addiction problems?! Are they going to ease into one of the million dollar homes they now camp out in front of? Are they going to get programming jobs at HP?
You people who agitated for the OC and continue to support its operation in town should be ashamed of yourselves. You are perpetuating the problems of the poor souls the OC attracts, and in many cases are making them them worse. Moreover, as many of the posts in this thread make clear, you increase the hostility toward these unfortunates by people who might have been otherwise sympathetic to some real solution as you've put the homeless in a situation which cannot help but lead to conflict with the rest of the population.
But I guess the point isn't to solve the problem. Rather it's to parade yourselves as "caring" in front of the rest of us to demonstrate your moral superiority. Who cares about the human props you use and abuse in the process. Shame on all of you.
Posted by k, a resident of the Duveneck/St. Francis neighborhood, on Sep 1, 2007 at 2:32 pm
what are the chances of closing down the OC - a new, major facility? All we can hope is to minimize attracting outside people to this area, but what is the likelihood of that? I would have preferred this facility in a highly urban, higher population area.
Posted by Benjamin, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 1, 2007 at 2:56 pm
Remove its (OC) use permit, since it failed to live up to its promises ("it will not be a magnet"). Convert it into administravtive offices for the police and public safety. Then the current police building will be able to be remodelled to accomodate active police services (jail cells, police cars, evidence holding, etc.).
This approach would reduce crime by eliminating the OC, and would cost a lot less than the proposed bond issue. In fact, if we want to demonstrate our outrage at the OC, we should DEFEAT the proposed bond issue for police/libraries! It would be a wake-up call.
Posted by Peter, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Sep 2, 2007 at 9:21 pm
<i>the restroom issue concerns me - can't the police check on them periodically?</i>
we don't have any bigoted/closeted Republican politicians here, do we?
as for wanting to see change, there are plenty of things you can and possibly even should do - so do them.
i suspect getting rid of that massive dude outside of whole foods would see the store's revenues increase by a couple of percent - something they'd be quite happy about. so, get some sigs, talk to the store mgmt, have them work a deal w/ the dude on the down-low, whatever - get creative - it's easy to envision lots of situations where all parties win. besides, everyone should take a shot at 'activism' - might give people an appreciation for how much (often unpaid) work goes into making things change.
i'm not crazy about seeing homeless folks all over the streets of pa, either, but i figure it's a good reminder - if i feel bad about it, then shame on me for not doing more - and shame on you and every member of this community who hasn't done more. if you're 'too busy' paying for that BMW, whose fault is that? lots of towns are experimenting with completely eliminating homelessness (Web Link) - can anyone really make themselves believe that Palo Alto's citizens are too dumb/selfish/cheap/poor to solve this isssue? I'm not buying it.
if people started to forcibly remove peaceful folks, though, i'd be on the side of the homeless people every time - and let the bums get what they will.
i saw that big dude reach into his car the other day - i was like, 'wow - dude has a car'. :D
and i saw this quote on overheardinnewyork.com the other day about a homeless person and weed - pretty funny.
if you want to do something about our community's problems, step up:
Posted by Ben W, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Sep 3, 2007 at 8:45 am
"i'm not crazy about seeing homeless folks all over the streets of pa, either, but i figure it's a good reminder "
Peter's quote gives voice to the complaint above that the homeless are being used as props to raise consciousness in others by the activists in town.
The mentally disturbed people that the Opportunity Center draws in town are Palo Alto's "problem" only because they have been attracted here by the policies of Peter and his like-minded compatriots in the homeless industry.
Palo Altans aren't selfish, poor, or cheap, but many in Palo Alto's establishment were duped by the homeless advocates when they approved the Opportunity Center.
As the posts in this thread show, a common reaction to the truly mentally ill panhandlers as well as to the Whole Foods grifter Peter describes is hostility. That's misdirected. The hostility should not be directed at the homeless, but toward activists [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff] who would use these people to try to "remind" and "shame" us for a problem that THE ACTIVISTS CREATED by opening the Opportunity Center = which as is clear, has become a staging area for Palo Alto's growing cohort of panhandlers.
We can do something about the problem Peter describes: close the Opportunity Center and redirect the people drawn here to a place where they actually have a chance to make something out of their lives, or for those who cannot be expected to ever be productive citizens, to mental health facilities.
Posted by Fred, a resident of the Barron Park neighborhood, on Sep 3, 2007 at 9:30 am
Thank you Ben W, that is an interesting perspective. What role does the city play in the Opp Center? Does the city fund it? How long has the Opp Center been in place? Are there any qualifications for receiving services there ("residency," which of course is problematic for the truly homeless?) or can anyone come (in which case it is truly a regional magnet?
It does remind me some of the "squeegee" men in New York in the '80s. They were truly a quality of life problem/scam, though they drew sympathy in the early days since some were homeless and/or mentally disturbed. When the city decided they'd had enough, it was a fairly easy problem to solve (police enforcement) and they disappeared quickly. I imagine the same would be true in PA too.
Posted by Ben W, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Sep 3, 2007 at 9:30 pm
I think Fred is right. No other city on the Peninsula has the homeless problems that Palo Alto does. The residents of these cities won't put up with it. In San Francisco and Berkeley, the homeless have seriously affected the quality of life. Residents in these towns tolerate and in some cases perversley welcome the pandhandlers on their streets.
Which way is Palo Alto going? We don't HAVE to do anything about this growing problem, but we can. Do we have the political will and moral fortitude to tell the activists they are wrong?
Posted by Joanna, a resident of the Adobe-Meadows neighborhood, on Sep 4, 2007 at 12:08 pm
"This approach would reduce crime by eliminating the OC..."
I like your idea of using the OC as a police office, but where do you get the facts of crime?
Do those guests of the OC increase crime in PA? Are they involved in any kind of crime? I assume you mean something other than the loitering on the sidewalks issue.
Let us not forget that these are human beings who have some kind of mental illness. While I am leaning towards closing down the OC, it is not just because I want "them" outta my neighborhood. I want a viable option to help them. It seems that the OC isn't doing its job.
I'm kind of ignorant on the subject. What does the OC do?
Posted by Chuck, a resident of the Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 4, 2007 at 12:32 pm
Thanks for your thoughtful response and questions, Joanna. You show that it's possible to be concerned about the fate of the people attracted to Palo ALto by the Opportunity Center, and realistic about what the OC is doing to exacerbate the problems these people already have living stable lives, and the problems other citizens have in town because of the actions of the homeless.
Unfortunately, the crimes committed by the OC habitues are not limited to loitering, panhandling and minor harassment of passersby on the streets (to the extent that those are crimes at all in Palo Alto). Forum poster Answer relates his discussion with members of the Police Department about the issue and indicates the OC is a significant user of Police Resources. Of course there was the recent example of the OC resident who went on a mini-rampage at Town and Country. (Web Link).
This is not surprising to anyone thinking logically about the issue and not wearing ideological blinders. You can't put mentally unstable, substance abusing social misfits in the middle of an expensive professionally oriented suburb, next to a pricey shopping center and near a high school without expecting problems. Right now we have a homeless guy camped across the street from Castileja School.
It is only a matter of time before something much more serious than burglary and window breaking happens because of the presence of these poor souls in our community. Many of the "Homeless" have poor impulse control, which is why they are in the situation they are in. Why in the world would we attract them to a place where they have no hope of living in a stable way - a place with all the distractions and temptations of Palo ALto?
You're right: close the Opportunity Center. That's the best first step toward helping the homeless.
Posted by Benjamin, a resident of the South of Midtown neighborhood, on Sep 4, 2007 at 3:19 pm
"I like your idea of using the OC as a police office, but where do you get the facts of crime?"
Palo Alto is very careful about how it reports "crimes". You can view the official statistics at Web Link . Only certain crimes are listed. The police log only lists ten days. If you can find statistics related to the OC,you are better than me! A simple data base of all REPORTS of crimes, along with location and addresses of arrests or citations would be useful, but you will not find such useful data in PA. Why? Because avaerage PA citizens might begin to get the picture, and draw conclusions.
Let me provide an example. A woman is shopping downtown, and an aggressive bum approaches her for $$. She feels intimidated, and wants to stay safe, so she quickly reaches into her purse and pulls out some change. She sees a cop, and tells him/her "I was intimidated by a homeless person, and felt I had to given him money". The cop says, "Mamm, I didn't see it. Are you claiming that you were verbally assaulted? If so, can you give me a description, and agree to participate in a citizen's arrest?" She says, "I don't think so". And the game goes on. No report filed.
Here's another example, one that I have seen many times. A drunken bum is pissing on a wall in public. I don't even bother reporting it. Why should I? Nothing will be done about it. I just avoid shopping downtown.
Joanna, "Answer", who rode around with the police officer is telling the truth. Encina Ave. is now a greater locus of crime than prior to the OC.
If we shut down the OC, and convert it to police/safety offices we will be MUCH better off. If this is opposed by the City Council, or if the CC refuses to acknowlege the magnet problem with the OC, then we citizens should simply vote AGAINST the police/library bond issue! Ladorris Cordell and John Burton will not understand any other language.
Posted by Answer, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Sep 6, 2007 at 12:08 pm
Some posters have said that they can't get any reliable stats from Palo Alto PD on if there is a big upswing in crimes because of the OC. I think you can, but you have to look a little broader. Look at arrests that are made in that area (medical center, T&C) train station, etc) and not just at the actual address of the OC. That will give you a better picture. Also, I bet if you organized a request to the PD they would pretty much bend over backwards to give you whatever they can legally hand you. I don't rally buy in to the "the police will hide the stats so you will keep shopping there" conspiracy theory. I have found them doing just the opposite. They seem to be as transparent as they can while still operating under certain laws that dictate how they release info.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Sep 7, 2007 at 9:36 am
I am not sure how unlawful it is to wash out an item of clothing in a library bathroom, although it might be unpleasant. So, what point is there in calling the police? If a young child has an "accident", it would be quite proper for the mother to rinse out soiled clothing as long as it was being done hygienically, so where is the line to be drawn. This sounds a bit discriminatory to me.
Posted by Ben W, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Sep 7, 2007 at 10:02 am
Resident is right. It <i>would</i> be discriminatory to police the homeless at the point where they're using the library restrooms as their personal laundry...and hard to draw lines. It's hard to draw fine lines around much of the anti-social behavior of the mentally ill substance abusers that wander around town. (Look at the guy wrapped up in newspapers and rags who's been sleeping on the on the bench at the corner of Churchill and Bryant for the last month: how do you distinguish him from a person taking a rest from his walk around town?)
But it's not hard to draw a line around the big picture problem: we have all these weird, uncomfortable, and sometimes dangerous things happening in our town because a few activists convinced pliant city leaders to approve the Opportunity Center. And so we put up with this menagerie of strange and disgusting behavior, but more importantly, these poor people have been drawn to an area where they cannot possibly hope to integrate into the social structure - making their already bad problems much, much worse.
Posted by Anon, a resident of East Palo Alto, on Sep 8, 2007 at 11:45 pm
I know this is off-topic and I should mind my own business, but I am very curious about one man I see walking around Palo Alto, mostly near Embarcadero and E. Bayshore Drive. He is an older man with a beard and he often wears uniforms (like Naval uniforms) and other very formal clothes. He also has a suitcase with wheels. At first, I just thought he was someone coming home from the airport, but he always has that suitcase with him. I hate to jump to the conclusion that someone is homeless so I am just not sure what to think of this man. Thanks
Posted by Restrooms, a resident of the Southgate neighborhood, on Sep 9, 2007 at 10:32 am
It is not helpful to create imaginary scenarios to make a point. I did not check what the woman was washing in the sink. Maybe she was washing herself. It most certainly was not a diaper, which a sensible woman rinses in the toilet, not in the sink. No children are involved in the incident.
The room was steamy and I backed out quickly the way one would if one had accidentally opened a toilet door.
The unpleasantness for librarians who have to deal with these people daily is a real problem, not a hypothetical one.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Sep 9, 2007 at 5:56 pm
If anyone is using scenarios to make a point, I think it may be you.
The point I made, was that there may be a good reason for someone (not your homeless person) rinsing through an article of clothing in the sink. It isn't every kind of accident that needs to be first rinsed through in the toilet before being rinsed in the sink.
So, what do we do, put up a sign asking people not to rinse clothing in the sink. Do we ask people not to wash their hair in the sink. What about applying make up.
No, my point is that we cannot stop regular library users and probably employees from occasionally doing something that they may do in the bathroom at home. If you want to draw the line somewhere about what may or may not be correct, you have to be very careful. There is no point trying to prevent every homeless person using the library and their restrooms for whatever purpose. It isn't a crime to be homeless so getting the police to stop them doing the same things as the rest of us are doing is not going to help.
Posted by Had enough, a resident of the Downtown North neighborhood, on Sep 9, 2007 at 6:09 pm
"There is no point trying to prevent every homeless person using the library and their restrooms for whatever purpose. It isn't a crime to be homeless so getting the police to stop them doing the same things as the rest of us are doing is not going to help."
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
The vagrants can and should be arrested on public health issues. It is completely cruel to leave them out there on their own, even if they are deluded enough to think that they are OK. I can tell that you will not agree, but here is a bottom line that might get your attention:
DEFEAT the library bond! Let City Council know that we PA taxpayers do NOT want a library full of unsanitary vagrants. Let the council figure it out...until then do NOT feed the beast.
Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Sep 9, 2007 at 7:00 pm
Yes, I do agree with you, funnily enough. I hate seeing the homeless around, I hate smelling them, I am to some extent scared of them and I hate having to explain the issues to my young children. But, there are some things that they can't be expected to stop doing. Sleeping in doorways, park benches, etc. yes, that should be stopped. But, using public restrooms in an orderly manner, now come on. We have to accept that we may not like what they are doing and having to share the restrooms with them, but I can't see an ethical reason for preventing them.
I would rather them use the restroom than the doorway I am about to cross.
Posted by Ben W, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, on Sep 10, 2007 at 12:11 pm
Resident is right: it is often very difficult to make legal distinctions between the uncivil actions of the homeless, and the typical normal use of public facilities.
But it's not difficult to figure out why we're forces to confront the idea of making these legal distinctions so often of late. The Opportunity Center has drawn people who have difficulty conforming their behavior to community norms to a place where they have no hope of fitting in to the community. They are not helped by this kind of do-goodism.
The problems Had Enough and Resident complain of can be reduced substantially by one action: CLOSE THE OPPORTUNITY CENTER.