Victor Frost was offered a spot on the Downtown Streets Team, writing for its Web site, and an opportunity to apply to work at Whole Foods.
Yet the Homer Avenue panhandler and perennial City Council candidate declined, streets team Director Eileen Richardson said. The streets team gives homeless persons a chance to work in exchange for food and housing assistance.
City officials had hoped Richardson, renowned for her skill in working with the community's most troubled inhabitants, would be able to coax Frost from his crates across from Whole Foods, Assistant City Attorney Donald Larkin said Wednesday.
But when that didn't work, they decided to enforce the sit-lie ban, issuing Frost a misdemeanor citation Tuesday afternoon.
"We've been getting complaints from just about everybody," Police Acting Lt. Sandra Brown said.
Sitting or lying on the sidewalk between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. has been illegal along University Avenue for a decade, but last summer the council agreed to expand the area covered by the ban, after local business leaders, spurred by Frost's presence, lobbied the city for the expansion.
The sit-lie ban now covers roughly between Lytton and Channing avenues and east from Alma Street to Webster Street.
Yet citations are rare, Larkin and Brown said. Usually, officers enforce the sit-lie ban by asking violators to move. They nearly always do.
But even after the sit-lie ban it went into effect on Homer Avenue last July, Frost remained. He sits on a crate behind a large cardboard sign. A large man with scraggly gray hair, who has diabetes and heart problems, Frost spends his days listening to a portable radio, talking to passersby he knows and collecting food and donations in a wooden bowl. He is a native Palo Altan and began panhandling at Whole Foods, and sometimes Mollie Stone's, because he was attracted to their fresh, organic food.
"I'm very concerned about my health," Frost said.
The city originally opted not to cite Frost last summer to allow adequate time for all Homer Avenue regulars to adjust to the new rule, Larkin said. Then, when Frost declared his candidacy for council, the city didn't want to give the impression it opposed his candidacy, Larkin said.
After the November election, the city tapped Richardson to work with Frost, Larkin said.
"We've been trying really hard to get Victor to voluntarily cooperate," Larkin said. "Nobody's excited about issuing citations."
Richardson said she spent more than a year trying to work with Frost and offered him several different positions on the streets team.
"I gave him special treatment. … Where it came out, finally is that he doesn't want to work like all the other team members," Richardson said. "They have to show a little effort."
Another Homer Avenue panhandler who joined the streets team now has a job in Redwood City and a home, Richardson said.
A few weeks ago, Frost said he didn't want to work with the team, Richardson said.
"It's so frustrating," Richardson said. "It is sad and it's also really too bad."
"I can't lift him up, literally or figuratively."
Frost does have dreams to leave Homer Avenue. He'd like to run a goat ranch in the wooded hills of northern California — with a nice wife.
But the 60-something homeless man sees the city, and Whole Foods, as his ticket to get there. He plans to sue the city and Whole Foods and the Opportunity Center.
Frost will tell anyone willing to listen that his constitutional rights are being violated: Panhandling is protected as free speech.
He's right. But blocking public right-of-ways during heavily trafficked times, creating a safety hazard, isn't covered by the U.S. Constitution.
"I'm not blocking anybody," Frost said Wednesday.
Other panhandlers, and even sitting signature gathers, seeing that the new law has not moved Frost, have returned to Homer Avenue.
Brown said the police plan to enforce the sit-lie ban fairly, citing anyone who does not agree to leave.
"We're not out here trying to penalize him. It's causing problems for other people. There are other people out there," Brown said.
Frost is convinced that he is right. He believes he is fighting for the rights of Palo Alto's homeless people, opposing the all-powerful companies, non-profits and governments that he feels mistreat them.
"No one else is doing it," Frost said. "No one fights back, but I do and they don't like that."
He is homeless again. After a year at the Opportunity Center, Frost says he left because employees there asked for his medical information.
Nancy Fash-McHenry, a spokeswoman for InnVision, which operates the Opportunity Center, said she cannot comment on individual clients.
Frost was hospitalized in November for heart failure, recently diagnosed with diabetes, and now lives in his car, a 1968 Mercedes in less-than-stellar condition.
When asked if he really thinks the city, the Opportunity Center and Whole Foods are "out to get him," he laughs.
Frost offers several reasons he doesn't work: He says he worked hard for many years, he doesn't want to work for Richardson or Whole Food's Associate Team Leader Phil Lonardo, he doesn't want to pick up cigarette butts, he makes relatively good money panhandling and he expects his potential lawsuits will bring in thousands of dollars.
"Maybe I'm rebelling right now," Frost said. "I've had enough."
He says he meditates and thinks while sitting on Homer Avenue. He has filled 20 to 30 journals with poetry, writings on homeless issues and other thoughts.
And if his plans to get rich via litigation don't work out?
"At least I tried. I'm not going to live with myself if I don't try," Frost said. "I'm fighting for a better life for me."
He said he plans to show up for his June 4 court date, when the court will likely assign him probation regulations rather than a fine, Larkin said.
If Frost doesn't move, he'll just keep getting cited unless the court orders "stronger enforcement," Larkin said.
The police aren't going to handcuff Frost and take him to jail, unless ordered by a court, Brown and Larkin said.
And so, for at least a while, Frost will remain a fixture on Homer Avenue.
"Don't feel sad about me," Frost said Wednesday. "Because I might win."