Group of residents shelters, feeds the needy and homeless

Neighbors Helping Neighbors helped people living on the streets during the freeze

When temperatures plummeted in early December, the freezing temperatures were viewed by the Palo Alto group Neighbors Helping Neighbors as an emergency on par with disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes.

At least five homeless people froze to death in Santa Clara County that month, including a 72-year-old Palo Alto woman, Gloria Bush, according to the Santa Clara County Coroner.

Concerned about people sleeping on the streets or in their cars, the group, based in Midtown, sprang into action. They provided more than 50 homeless residents, families with children and individuals who have medical needs, with motel stays. They distributed emergency supplies to help prevent hypothermia during the bitterest nights.

Recipients said that the services of Neighbors Helping Neighbors have been a lifeline.

"It's graced our lives," Susan Russaw, 68, said.

Russaw and her 85-year-old husband, James, were given priority for the motel stays this winter, Executive Director Caryll-Lynn Taylor said, as James must have kidney dialysis.

The couple lived in a one-bedroom apartment for eight years and paid $800 a month. But a substantial increase put them on the streets. They have lived in their 1994 Ford Explorer since Dec. 3, 2012, Russaw said. They are on a waiting list for subsidized housing.

The couple developed influenza this winter while living in the cold, Russaw said.

Neighbors Helping Neighbors provided motel stays and 11 days in a resident's cottage.

"We didn't want to spend another winter outside. Really, we were so lucky. They bent over backwards for us," she said.

Another woman, "Jane," and her 16-year-old daughter have been living in their car for the past 1 1/2 years after Jane was laid off from her accounting job. She was in her profession for 25 years, but she did not have a degree. She is back in college and could graduate with a degree in spring. A few more months would give her a double-associate's degree in accounting and business, which would mean better pay, she said.

"Finding work that paid enough was impossible. Unemployment benefits were not enough to pay the rent. I am the sole breadwinner. Ten dollars an hour does not put a roof over our heads. We decided on what sacrifices to make. The sacrifice was not having a roof over our head so we could get to something better," she said.

Jane's daughter, a senior at Palo Alto High School, did not want to leave her school, so they did not move away. Jane works odd jobs part time to support the pair.

Occasional hotel stays thanks to Neighbors Helping Neighbors have helped Jane and her daughter this winter.

"One of the best was the second week in December for two days. It was a Monday and Tuesday, and Tuesday was when my finals were. It was nice to be in a hotel room to study for my finals," she said.

When not staying in motels, Jane and her daughter use the emergency survival kit supplied by Neighbors Helping Neighbors. The kit includes a travel mug to plug into the car lighter to warm up soup, hand and foot warmers and a thermal blanket, which have made nights in her car much warmer, she said.

The weather crisis might be past, but Neighbors Helping Neighbors is still in disaster-response mode, Taylor said.

"The unhoused show the same symptoms as any victim of a natural or man-made disaster," she said.

In response, the community should address the needs of homeless and at-risk persons in the same manner as other disaster victims, she added.

Year-round, Neighbors Helping Neighbors provides food and services — including a jobs network, groceries and chef-prepared meals and housing matches — to individuals and families who don't qualify for other safety-net programs.

The all-volunteer group began in the Midtown neighborhood in October 2012 when it mobilized for a holiday food drive. In one year it expanded to offer its other services.

So far, Neighbors Helping Neighbors has helped 1,000 people, Taylor said. A core group of 500 volunteers citywide donate money and time to do outreach, find resources and distribute services.

At scheduled outreach events, volunteers help the needy fill out forms and do interviews to address immediate needs. Neighbors develop an action plan for each person, she said.

Homelessness anywhere, but especially in resource-rich Palo Alto, "is an unacceptable situation, and it doesn't have to be that way, as demonstrated by our small amount of resources," Taylor said.

More information about Neighbors Helping Neighbors can be found at


Like this comment
Posted by JM
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 25, 2014 at 8:01 pm

A hearty bravo to this group's efforts! So wonderful to see a successful volunteer effort to address something that matters. A welcome relief from the rampant superficiality and materialism that seems to drive so much of our area!

Like this comment
Posted by Kudos
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 25, 2014 at 8:18 pm

The city should fund these grassroots organizations instead of paying a 250,000 per year PR bureaucrat to tell is what a great job they are doing.

Which would have a more positive effect in our lives and better represent the values of the community: Neighbors Helping Neighbors or the PR bureaucrat?

Like this comment
Posted by Sounds Great!
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 26, 2014 at 11:45 am

This sounds like a great program! What an excellent alternative to criminalizing and demonizing the homeless! This is a program I'd like to support.

Does Neighbors Helping Neighbors have plans for a website, and to make more information available on Facebook? A permanent location for monetary donations, tax-exempt status, etc.?

Keep up the good work and let us all know more about how to help.

Like this comment
Posted by Debby
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 27, 2014 at 11:32 am

What a wonderful outreach!
I would love to donate to this cause if someone provides info to do so.

Like this comment
Posted by Gethin
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 27, 2014 at 11:35 am

Gethin is a registered user.

Excellent program - thanks and congratulations to everyone involved.

Like this comment
Posted by Alicia
a resident of another community
on Jan 27, 2014 at 11:37 am

Redwood City's not on the list!!

I think every community in the Bay Area should follow this lead! Wonderful to share what we have with those who have not.

Thank you for your service!!!

Like this comment
Posted by Alicia
a resident of another community
on Jan 27, 2014 at 11:39 am

Yes... I would like to donate to this effort - please provide info.
Hope this media highlights this effort with all necessary data.

Like this comment
Posted by Jean
a resident of Los Altos
on Jan 27, 2014 at 11:40 am

Is there any such program in Los Altos. I have not heard a word about anyone in need and I cant believe there are none here

Like this comment
Posted by Jane
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 27, 2014 at 11:53 am

Is this a 501C?
Any financial statements, etc., available for review?
Are donations tax deductible?

Good luck!

Like this comment
Posted by C.L.Taylor
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 27, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Dear Neighbors & Friends,
Neighbors Helping Neighbors is evolving bit by bit. And with more luck and your generosity and friendship, the future is bright for NHN.

How you can help:
Website - we need a website master plus someone who will maintain the site.

Face Book - we have two fantastic ladies who maintain it. But we welcome anyone else who has experience and social networking skills to make it better.

NHN - yup, we do not have tax exempt status yet! But we're working on it. So, we are so grateful to those who have given generously their 'non-tax deductible' donations. And grateful to those who will give in the future. It keeps us going.

Food & Funds - donations have been way down. We had to move our grocery distribution forward twice in January. Which meant our 130 households had to go hungry longer this month. We're hoping that the community will 'step up' in a larger way with food & fund donations for February-March-April, so these folks will get the food they need on time.
FOOD, COLD & FLU and survival items plus funds can be dropped off
Tues, Feb. 04 @ UUCPA 505 E. Charleston Rd Rooms 4 & 5 Palo Alto

Survival & Cold/Flu Kits - NHN will continue this effort as long as night time temperatures are 40 degrees or below. Check Face Book page for specific items to donate.
MOTEL STAYS - we are still short of our goal set to provide a restbite for our un-housed from the night time cold, their circumstances and for those who are ill. PLEASE HELP - CONTACT Caryll-Lynn at

Volunteer Opportunities -
NHN & PAUSD OUTREACH EVENT, Thurs. Jan 30, 2014 between 10 am to 2 pm.

Lucie Stern Community Center - City of Palo Alto
1305 Middlefield Rd, Palo Alto, CA 94301 PHONE: #650-283-0270
Two hours shifts, bagged lunch provided.
FYI- If you are someone who is having financial difficulties or you know of someone who needs help. Please have them contact us for a 30 min appointment during this event. Phone: 650-283-0270 or

NHN Food Sorting/Packaging, Survival items event - come help us sort, bag food and survival supplies. Tues, 2/04 @ 4 - 8 PM, UUCPA 505 E. Charleston Rd Palo Alto Call to schedule a timeslot. Call Phone 650-283-0270.

THANK YOU - NEIGHBORS & FRIENDS FOR YOUR GENEROSITY & SUPPORT. Our neighbors in need can not survive without it. Spread the word...
Caryll-Lynn Taylor
Exec. Director & Food Programs Chair
Phone: 650-283-0270
P.O. BOX 113
Palo Alto, CA 94302

Like this comment
Posted by C.L.Taylor
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 27, 2014 at 12:40 pm

Dear Neighbors & Friends.
It makeS me and our core team feel so good to hear from our neighbors from Redwood City, Los Altos and Menlo Park who have commented about having a Neighbors Helping Neighbors in your cities. That's our desire and dream!
Mountain View has begun to form NHN-MV under our guidance. A resident from La Honda had reached out to us. And some Sunnyvale residents are speaking with us.

So, our friends and neighbors in near by cities if you would like to learn how you can have a NHN in your city or block or neighborhood contact us for details. The need is great, let's all be a part of the solution for our middle & low income neighbors who find it difficult to afford to continue to live among us...
Palo Alto Online Palo Alto Weekly Article: Catching neighbors who fall through the gap (January 25, 2013)
Web Link

Like us on face book to get more details on our programs, services and upcoming events.

Click this link for more details on our Face Book page,
Web Link

We may not have all the solutions. NHN will do our best to fill the gaps.

Caryll-Lynn Taylor
Exec. Director & Food Programs Chair

P.S SUE DREMANN - PA WEEKLY - You are awesome! This is superb journalism.
Many thanks for your sensitivity to our un-housed and gap households alike.
They have noticed and I will be senting you their feedback shortly. So, glad you are in our corner.

Like this comment
Posted by David Wolf
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 29, 2014 at 9:30 am

Great job and well done! The name of the group, Neighbors Helping Neighbors is perfect. I know that many private and non-private companies make donations for various community services, but it is good to see and hear about the kind and practical gifts that are offered to those who need it most. Many people find themselves in dire circumstances now and then, and it great that there are neighbors willing to extend a hand of help during those tough times. I am especially glad that a young student could also benefit from this good work. She appreciates it now and I am sure she will never forget it.

Like this comment
Posted by Neighbors Helping Neighbors
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 6, 2015 at 8:39 am

NHN is a local non profit service provider for basic need and housing. We can help with life's challenges from food, housing, landlord-tenant issues to connecting you with the right programs & services that fit your needs.

Dear Friends and Neighbors.
Neighbors Helping Neighbors has evolved since this article was first published Jan 2014. In 2015, we sever many more clients.
Learn more about us,

Learn more about us:
Web Link
Web Link
Web Link

NHN Events Calendar: Web Link

NHN primarily serve middle income households who too often do not qualify for 'safety net' programs because of their income. NHN has no income requirement. All programs and services are free.
If you know of anyone who needs extra support Basic Needs-Jobs-Housing, NHN is happy to help. Contact Us:

For general info.
650-283-0270 (No Texting, please)
P.O. BOX 113
Palo Alto, CA 94302
NHN Events Calendar: Web Link
​We may not have all the solutions. NHN will do our best to fill the gaps.

Peer Counseling Team
​Phone: 650-283-0270 (No Texting, please)
Striving to keep our middle to low income neighbors stable & thriving.

Phone: 650-283-0270
Ask for "Relocation Packet". Best possible outcomes happen when you go prepared. Complete 'NHN Relocation Package'
include ​rental application, credit bureau, proof of income and make copies. When in doubt, or presented w/a barrier, ASK. We are here to help...

Home Sharing Program -
Housing Coordinator
Landlord Inquires – Room Rentals/other rentals.

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