Town Square

Hypothermia killed woman at Heritage Park

Original post made on Dec 24, 2013

The Palo Alto woman who died in Heritage Park on Saturday, Dec. 21, succumbed to complications from hypothermia, the Santa Clara County Coroner's Office said today. Gloria Bush, 72, had spent her life helping persons with mental illness before being overtaken by her own, her family said.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, December 24, 2013, 4:23 PM


Posted by thank you, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 24, 2013 at 5:41 pm

Thank you for this report.

Posted by 2strange, a resident of another community
on Dec 24, 2013 at 5:51 pm

Thanks for the background story. It's too easy to walk past a homeless person and not think of their humanity. Best wishes to the family, and thanks to those who tried to look out for her.

Posted by Thanks!, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 24, 2013 at 6:37 pm

What a horrible death for this poor soul. If the City Council had not been threatened with a lawsuit, it would not have decided to place a moratorium on the vehicle dwelling ordinance. That would have forced car dwellers out of their vehicles to sleep on the streets. We would have more deaths on our streets.

I would like to think that this will prompt some soul searching about support for the vehicle dwelling ordinance among Palo Alto citizens. The problem at Cubberley is solved. What we need now is compassion for those who struggle, not a punitive ordinance like that.

City Council, repeal the VHO in honor of Gloria Bush. Come back from the holiday with a proposed ordinance, "Gloria's Law", that will ensure that this does not happen again:

Section 1: Repeal the VHO
Section 2: Statement of policy and purpose: No one in Palo Alto should die from the lack of basic necessities of life: food, clothing, shelter, medical care.
Section 2: commit yourselves to building a 150 bed shelter for homeless that provides both housing and social services, run by same people who gave us the Opportunity Center.

Everlasting shame to all those who supported and voted for the Vehicle Dwelling Ordinance, and you know who you are, even if you don't want me to name names here. You should renounce having supported it. It was a bad idea. Even if you didn't know it then, you know it now that someone has FROZEN TO DEATH in PALO ALTO FOR LACK OF HOUSING.
Section 3: Commit to funding for the services and housing in section 2.

Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Dec 24, 2013 at 7:59 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Thank you for this beautiful, realistic and heartbreaking story. Again, I am so sorry for her loved ones.

It's touching and galvanizing to read about how many tried to help her. It's also a reminder for us to give more whenever possible.

What seems to be the most challenging is how to deal with the many who won't use the services available, due to their mental health issues and other concerns. That has been my sad, frustrating experience in dealing with homeless people.

Posted by Heidi, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 24, 2013 at 9:27 pm

Isn't there something real that we can do? Why do we need to accept that mentally ill people are allowed to make their own choices, to live on our streets? If it is a state law, can we lobby to change it? Such poor souls need our help, even if they don't want it.

Posted by Bill Kelly, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 24, 2013 at 9:39 pm

We have as a nation, and a state let down our mentally ill. Reforming State Hospitals is incomplete, they could serve a needed purpose, with a focus on compassion and caring, couldn't we help the 25% of the prison population and many homeless with structured care, not imprisonment, that used medicine and therapy to try to unwind this abusive life without reverting back to warehousing the mentally ill?

Posted by Quit Pointing Fingers, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 24, 2013 at 10:08 pm

@Thanks! Sympathetic words, but YOU should lead the effort instead of asking society to take care of these people. We've worked hard to live in Palo Alto and expect others to do the same. America is a capitalistic country, not socialist.

Posted by Thanks!, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Dec 24, 2013 at 10:22 pm

@Quit. You're right. I forgot about capitalism. OK, let's let all the poor people starve and freeze to death. I am pretty sure that's what Jesus said. He said ""So the last will be first, and the first will be last. Except in Palo Alto where people have worked hard to live there. [Portion removed.]" Isn't that in Matthew 20:16? I think so.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Posted by Thanks to Sue Dremann, a resident of University South
on Dec 24, 2013 at 11:08 pm

Thanks to Sue Dremann for such a fine, detailed, story and written in a short time.

Posted by Rest In Peace, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 24, 2013 at 11:30 pm

I was about to wrap the gifts for my children when I read this sorry and I am saddened. It has been depressing to read news like this, one after another, year after year, the suicide deaths in Palo Alto every year, the incessant mass shootings in theaters, in schools, in markets and workplaces, across america.

The root cause in almost all these cases has been attribute to mental illness of some degree. However, it seems to me, after all the political fanfares, the root cause is left unaddressed. Palo Alto parents will fight vigorously over the stress in the education system. The anti-gun or pro-gun activists quarrel every day over all kinds of media. The politicians passed all kinds of laws to deal with guns. But has anything been done about mental illness?

Perhaps we are too content with continuing to treat the "rare disease" as unspeakable, and the "demon possessed" minority, untouchable?

Sometimes after all those high profile tragedies, I wonder why no one asked, "but what about mental illness? what have we done about THAT?"

I think the following will be my Christmas wishes for America this year:

1. Increase discussion & education about mental illness. In particular, educate people how to treat others with mental illness properly. Train businesses professionals. Build a social norm to treat mental illness patients with respect and care. Don't alienate people who are suffering and possibly, are on the edge. Create an environment that don't push people away from seeking treatment due to fear of social biases.

2. Improve our mental illness facilities. People with mental illness should be treated in a hospital. Stop putting patients with mental illness together with drug addicts. Provide safe, comforting facilities that can help patients recover.

3. Fix our laws regarding the care of patients with severe mental illness. Provide reasonable access to relatives and friends to monitor and care for the patients together with the hospital systems, just like for any other illness. Enable the relatives to help the patients. Make them more effective.

4. Invest A LOT more in research in mental illness. Find more effective, more precise treatment as soon as possible, please.

With all the rich and powerful, gentle and wise people in Palo Alto, could we help drive an effort to find more effective cures for mental illness?

Mr. Page, Mr. Zuckerburg, Mrs. Jobs, and all the other great men and women of Palo Alto who I can not name, I really appreciate your philanthropic work, and in general, have been very impressed how much you changed the way we live. Besides so many things you have done for the young and able, smart and chic, could you please help push our nation for a real change for how we treat people with mental illness, for their sake, and for our own sake?

I am not Catholic but I was deeply moved to see the photo of Pope Francis embracing the disfigured man. I wish there will be an angel who would embrace the troubled souls among us.

God bless.

Posted by Savannah Grace Murphy, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 25, 2013 at 8:31 am

Thank you again, Sue for the continued update on our neighbor, Gloria! That woman that was once someone's child, someone's Mum, someone who graduated from college and had her own giving ways fell prey to a sad illness and she now rests. I'm new to Palo Alto, and sincerely appreciate writers like you that do an excellent job in representing all our community.

Posted by Bru, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 25, 2013 at 1:43 pm

Bru is a registered user.

I have seen this woman for years. The other description given of a hunched over woman with matted hair was not this lady, which means that the hunched over woman with matted hair is still out there presumably, facing this cold. I saw this woman wandering around all over Palo Alto but often in the park downtown by the Senior Center. That seems a little ironic. One has to wonder what happened to what the photos show as a bright young woman. It's a huge shame that no one knows or can tell the story of these people, yet when something happened to them everyone pretends to care so much and be so concerned. Perhaps she could not abide hypocrisy? We are not very close to being able to understand people, so I think for now there is something to be said, albeit tragically, for those who bravely take their lives into their own hands and go out into the world alone.

Posted by Bru, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 25, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Bru is a registered user.

My condolences to her daughter, she must feel very sad about this, and yet it can better be looked at as a blessing.

> She said that she talked to several people about gaining conservatorship for her mother but she was told it would be nearly impossible.

I wonder where she was told that? When someone is so far gone they cannot take care of themselves the state, i.e. Adult Protective Services, I think, is supposed to be able to do something. You can have someone put under care, but it can require restraining them against their will, which is really no better than letting them wander around alone as they get who knows what kind of care or neglect in an institution?

Posted by Boscoli, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 25, 2013 at 5:55 pm

So, according to one of the posters, capitalism is the bedrock of our nation, and according to him/her, capitalism means that we as a nation are not supposed to care about the least fortunate among us, because it would be un-American. We are all on our own, only the strong survive and the hell with all the others. I think it was Kurt Vonegaught, and the present Pope who said that capitalism was immoral.

Posted by Elmo, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 25, 2013 at 6:58 pm

[Post removed.]

Posted by Rupert of henzau, a resident of Midtown
on Dec 25, 2013 at 7:04 pm

And how do you know about it, Elmo, if it was unreported"????

Posted by iSez, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 25, 2013 at 11:28 pm

iSez is a registered user.

Yes, everyone claims to feel for this woman, but no one was really helping her out on their own time and with their own $$$. The outrage will subside and everyone will continue with their own lives again in a split second.

[Portion removed.]

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 26, 2013 at 6:11 am

[Portion removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]

Posted by Bruce Jewett, a resident of another community
on Dec 26, 2013 at 11:23 am

I knew Gloria in the 1970s. We were part of Community of Communities, a student mental health community outreach program at San Jose State. She was intelligent, vivacious, extremely caring. No one should have to live without shelter.

Posted by Koa, a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 26, 2013 at 2:05 pm

iSez- helping her on their own time and money is exactly what volunteers at the food bank like Martha Shirk (quoted in article) were doing. Most of them also attended her memorial service today.

"Bush was one of the major reasons why Shirk kept coming back to work at the Food Closet, she said.

"The Monday volunteers all loved her, and we vied for the privilege of waiting on her. She was grateful for every item of food she got, expressing delight when there was fresh fruit or a particularly luscious dessert from The Prolific Oven, which donates its unsold items to the Food Closet.

"After she injured a finger a few years ago and could no longer use a can opener, we saved canned foods with pop-top lids for her. And we tried repeatedly to interest her in a variety of shoes that would have provided more protection than the flip flops she wore year-round. A couple of weeks ago, one of her flip flops broke, and she walked around on one bare foot for awhile until some of us brought in new flip flops for her," she said.

Posted by Agreed, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 26, 2013 at 2:19 pm

I agree that it is pretty incredible that so many people are NOW proclaiming compassion and caring for this unfortunate woman, when they never showed it to her during her lifetime.

I think this phenomenon is called regret or remorse. As usual,a little too little, a little too late.

Posted by scotty, a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 26, 2013 at 6:40 pm

I knew Gloria for 15 years "out here" and she was a wonderful women.

Years ago she would talk to several of us whom had been out here awhile and she knew well (andre/Jeff T.), though as time went on she spoke less and it was more difficult to engage her in conversation.

She would talk about santa cruz and living with her daughter there and here days as a home care nurse, so, some of us did have an idea of what she was about and her days of normalacy.

I applaud the people who did show up today. Not just my fellow homeless but the neighbors by heratige, the nanny, the jogger who just met her and of course the wonderful people at the food closet, most of whom have served there unshelfishly for years.

Posted by curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 26, 2013 at 8:00 pm

"City Council, repeal the VHO in honor of Gloria Bush."

I am appalled at this attempt to exploit an unfortunate woman's death for political cause. Why do you think that Ms Bush could have afforded a car, or could (should) have gotten a driver's license?

I recognize that some activists are trying to soothe their consciences by allowing vehicle camping on (other peoples') streets, but this is not the occasion for that campaign.

What actually killed Ms Bush, aside from California's choice to cut taxes by closing the state hospital system that sheltered unfortunates like her, is the no-nap bar on the bench that is prominently visible in the flowered bench photo. Our city government has been installing these on public benches for the past decade to prevent homeless from sleeping lying down on our precious outdoor benches. This bar forced Ms Bush to sleep on the ground, which pulled the warmth from her body far more efficiently than the layer of air under that bench could have.

The ultimate cause of Ms Bush's death is at the front doormat of 250 Hamilton, which in turn responds to PA citizens intolerance of our homeless.

Posted by Why?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 27, 2013 at 12:29 pm

Why is everyone blaming Palo Alto and its residents? Does Atherton, Bel-Air, Beverly Hills have homeless and support them? People move to wealthy areas to live amongst others with the same work etthics or lifestyle.

Posted by Concerned, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 27, 2013 at 2:25 pm

Rest in peace! I also feel that a significant portion of the homeless problem is the mental illness/health issue. But mental illness could be a much larger issue than the issue of homelessness. Arguably the most debilitating disease of all, mental illness could destroy a family and tear apart a community. I would agree with the people commented before me. We sort of let them down. If someone lose a limb, at least he or she would not lose the society's compassion and respect. If someone suffer an injury or illness to the brain, too often he or she will be cast out from the society. Their choices are so few and so undignified, being locked up, being medicated and being sedated that make them feel like zombies, or being homeless, or being on the road to expedited self destruction. For almost all other diseases, including STDs, it seems the society has more tolerance and understanding. There are all kinds of programs in the media or in the community that raise funds, educate people about them. When is the last time we hear any of the major news channel talking about mental health? When is the last time in any movie or TV series that you see mental patients portrait as a fighting victim instead of some demonic murdering "psycho"?

The fact the word "psycho" is so often used derogatively would show how much we as a society discriminate the weak, the unfortunate minority among us.

It is great to see so many people showed compassion toward Gloria and tried to help her. However, obviously not all homeless or not all mental patients would be able to maintain such amicable personality. Many patients behave erratically, some may be abominable, some may even be scary. Would we still treat them kindly, with respect and dignity? Note that mental illness often change people's personality. Paranoia and mania are common type of mental problems. However, it is really not the patient's fault, it is nobody's fault. It happens just like people may lose a limb, may get cancer.

I personally believe mental illness is often curable as proven by many people who recovered from mild form of it. However, it seems the society is not making it easy. Once someone lost his/her equilibrium, the forces of the society can often push him or her further away from it to a point of no return.

Yes, I know, often times the patients themselves are not making it easy. But it is not their fault. They lost the ability to get back in balance just like someone who lost a leg. They need the society to help hold them up, not push them to the ground.

I am not trying to blame anyone or Palo Alto. But like someone mentioned above, since Palo Alto has been the source and center of many forms of social/tech revolution from 90s, perhaps people from Palo Alto or Stanford could also help lead the way in this front as well.

Posted by ilovepizza, a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 28, 2013 at 12:04 am

I'd like to see some of those wonderful bright young minds of silicon valley work on a app where people who wanted to help local homeless could 'check in' and find their neighborhood peripatetic friends.

Because of the laws as they are, sometimes people with mental health issues won't stay in shelters, and their families can't get power of attorney to help (this happened with my cousin, sadly she passed in similar circumstances). There should be an app to help caring people be able to find and take responsibility for local homeless, especially during cold weather.

I'm so sorry to this woman's family for their loss, and their grief at not being able to help her in her final days. I know how much it hurts.

We should turn our sadness into new ideas and new solutions, and not underestimate the power of ingenuity and community efforts!

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 28, 2013 at 9:23 am

To say that mental health is the issue, may be true, whatever that means, but it does not matter. Just like a lot of medicine the notion that modern medicine can "treat" mental health issues is fiction. Yes, there are some who will claim that they responded to or are fixed by some drug they got, but that was true back in the days of lobotomies as well. They said that a lobotomy would kill 1/3, do nothing 1/3 and cure 1/3.

The problem is not how we "treat" the mentally ill but how we treat them, as in how we regard them.

I never saw the the lady in question here bother or be a problem for anyone. I never even saw her downtown or on a street corner begging for money. I saw her around time a lot just minding her own business.

I think curmudgeon has a good point about the bench modification to not allow people to sleep on benches. I get it ... no one likes to go to a bus stop and see some stinky person sleeping there where they could or do sit and wait sometimes. This is a complex problem that confounds us all, but designing the city like we are keeping wild animals out or making it hostile for some people, unless they are of use and work for sub-standard wages, to me anyway, is inhumane.

Is it a problem to have homeless around ... yes sometimes it is. Sometimes "regular" people or even powerful wealthy people are a problem too, and usually more often and a bigger problem. But somehow we feel better if we can take harsh action against the weak.

I do disagree with and think curmudgeon is very wrong when he makes some kind of case that is is exploiting the death of this woman for political gain ... please, what hypocritical pointless grandstanding ... "Rick, I am shocked to find illegal gambling in this establishment ... here's your winning inspector". Events that have an effect on people often provoke change ... this is not exploitation, in fact it is more cynical exploitation to try to call this exploitation because what curmudgeon is really doing is using this situation to push his anti-homeless agenda by pretending to be sympathetic to this woman's passing.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 28, 2013 at 6:53 pm

I have to agree more with Crum. than CPA on the exploitation. The car camping ordinance has nothing to do with Ms. Bush and her death. She did not own a car. And there are other places where the car campers can go besides PA residential neighborhoods. Though it is interesting to note that her daughter does say that Ms. Bush was not a resident of Palo Alto until after her mental illness took hold.

And not to take this thread off topic - I find it interesting that a Weekly photo gallery shows an unemployed gentleman with his 5th wheel RV - who camped at Cubberly. He readily admits he lived in his own home in Sunnyvale for camping in PA due to sickness and job loss.

This is a verified argument that supports the assertion that PA is a magnet for these types of activities by non-residents.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 29, 2013 at 1:43 am

> The car camping ordinance has nothing to do with Ms. Bush and her death.

Ostensibly, it did not, but negative stories and images of homeless people were exploited to push the car camping ban. All the "evils" of homelessness and crime and whatever else were wrapped into pushing that car camping ban. The people who wanted to ban car campers made zero distinction between their attack on car campers and the homeless.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 29, 2013 at 1:43 am

> The car camping ordinance has nothing to do with Ms. Bush and her death.

Ostensibly, it did not, but negative stories and images of homeless people were exploited to push the car camping ban. All the "evils" of homelessness and crime and whatever else were wrapped into pushing that car camping ban. The people who wanted to ban car campers made zero distinction between their attack on car campers and the homeless.

Posted by Edgarpoet, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 30, 2014 at 9:50 pm

Why are you people posting your "political views" ?
A woman died due to the LACK of resources of our society.
This was a precious soul, a woman who helped others, yet nobody helped her
or really found her shelter, She learned to not trust the government,
social programs, or "do-gooders" I could understand Gloria, I used to eat at the same free meals she visited. She did not do dope or alcohol. I used to talk to her over a Mitchell Park. There are 43 Churches in Palo Alto,
NOT one (to my knowledge) has any outreach program to the mentally ill.
Only PBC has a ministry to drug abusers and alcoholics. Giving a hot dog
to people or recycled food from Stanford only just keeps them alive,
but does nothing to solve their problems! Caring society? I think NOT!

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 1, 2014 at 1:08 am

>Crescent Park Dad
> This is a verified argument that supports the assertion that PA is a magnet for these types of activities by non-residents.

It hardly is an argument let alone a verified argument ... one guy from Santa Clara comes to Palo Alto to park does not say anything about what fraction out of town people are parking in Palo Alto or how many and what kind of people park in other towns to prove that Palo Alto has significantly more of them ... that is really poor thought process.

> Edgarpoet
> Why are you people posting your "political views" ?
> Caring society? I think NOT!

If I were you I'd say what I had to say and let others say what they have to say, but you don't think that is a political issue?