Palo Alto: Downtown Streets Team helps homeless men, women rebuild their lives


Several years ago Norman Williams found himself released from a federal penitentiary with nowhere to turn. He lacked the means and the know-how to get himself back on his feet. And he didn't know anyone who could help him.

Then he met the Downtown Streets Team.

"Downtown Streets Team put me under their wing," Williams said. "Since then I've been working for them ... volunteering."

Today, Williams has a whole new direction for his life.

The nonprofit Downtown Streets Team provides homeless men and women and those at-risk of becoming homeless with housing, work experience, stipends for food and clothes and the opportunity to be part of the community through volunteer work.

A $5,000 grant from the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund this year helped the organization purchase Safeway gift cards for the workers (or "team members," as the organization calls them). The stipend allows team members to meet their basic needs and to continue with the organization until they are permanently employed.

Having the independence and the means to take care of themselves gives people who were once down-and-out a newfound sense of purpose, said Eileen Richardson, the Downtown Streets Team's executive director.

"Before you know it they've built their self-confidence ... to a point where they just start flourishing," she said.

Downtown Streets Team was founded nearly a decade ago as a solution to the panhandling and filthiness that downtown Palo Alto business owners deplored. The organization was initially operated through the downtown Business Improvement District but became a separate agency in 2005 when Richardson took the reins. Today, the organization serves six communities, including Palo Alto, San Jose, Sunnyvale and San Rafael.

The 150-member Palo Alto team reaches out to the homeless downtown while performing various jobs, including sweeping streets, cleaning parking garages, handing out food to low-income and homeless individuals as well as providing peer-to-peer outreach. Team members work one to five days per week.

The organization also arranges for team members to live at the Opportunity Center in Palo Alto, which keeps them off the streets and in the workforce, Richardson said.

Williams resides at the Opportunity Center. When he first joined the team six years ago, he didn't have a place to stay and he wasn't able to take care of himself. Downtown Streets Team gave him a place to call home.

To ensure team members work through the myriad issues that have contributed to their homelessness, each works with a project manager, a case manager and an employment specialist. Individualized attention rather than general services is what's needed, Richardson said.

"Very early on I learned that we could never be all things to all people," she said. "Even if we had the best clothes closet on the planet, we would never have a size 8, brown pair of shoes on Feb. 22 when this person needed it. You're better off throwing that person in the car, driving to Walmart and getting them a new pair of shoes."

That approach has helped more than 600 team members "graduate," which means they hold stable jobs and maintain housing on their own. Graduates have moved on to work at grocery stores, pet-cleaning businesses and even for the City of Palo Alto, Richardson said.

"There has never been a bridge between the homeless person and the resume services or the job training or the work skills," she said. "We are that bridge in the center that gives you the hope that you really can do this again."

Team members are easily recognized in the community with their yellow work shirts, which Richardson said are a point of pride for the members because, in their uniforms, they feel like contributing members of the community.

"They are starting to rebuild their dignity," she said. "They could have been down-and-out for 10 years, homeless on the streets or panhandling. Now they're one of the 'good guys' because they put that T-shirt on."

Donations to the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund can be made at the Holiday Fund page here.

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Palo Alto program connects communities through art

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3 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 19, 2014 at 10:35 am

We annually support this program and highly recommend others in our community to do the same!

11 people like this
Posted by Alice Green
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 19, 2014 at 1:42 pm

This article presents the failures of modern society as a success story. That the "work ethic" continue to be the path to prosperity, not bubble dynamics in App creation or Land Appreciation. People that do not have the basics of food, water, shelter and clothing deserve better. They should not be forced into labor, especially to clean the streets of a super wealthy community that they will never belong to. This is not empowering work, and the article represents lipstick on the pig of slavery. [Portion removed.]

The article did not mention how much of a stipend they receive and used the term "volunteer" excessively. So, are they working for free? Sadly, the fear of police persecution on the street and starvation, persuades many to work in the worst of jobs for the least or even no pay. Do minimum wage laws not apply to this caste of human laborers? Does this devalue the paid work of maintenance of the "community" that benefits from this invisible work, driving other workers into poverty?

Not only that, but they're forced to wear bright yellow shirts to signify they are homeless and/or recently coming out of prison. It's horrible. France just tried to force homeless people to wear yellow triangles and it was deemed a human rights violation akin to Nazification. They were not able to implement the idea due to public outrage. Where is our outrage upon dehumanization here and abroad, in the name of progress?

This "bandaid" is not the way to help society's needy, whether by health reasons or the vagaries of the market, but it sure makes some people feel good about themselves.

2 people like this
Posted by Jim
a resident of Mayfield
on Dec 19, 2014 at 2:46 pm

Alice, you're entitled to your opinion, but at least have the decency to make it an informed one. You seem well educated enough, so you should know better than to spout off on something about which you know little or nothing.

I have supported the Downtown Street Teams for several years and have attended of their meetings at the Opportunity Center (you should too as they are open to the public and they welcome visitors from all walks of life).

The program, as I understand it, isn't about the sweeping of the streets (which somehow you've equated to slavery). The program is about empowering people to reintegrate into society and transition into employment. The way they describe their program is that the volunteering prepares the homeless for employment, because they have to work as a team on a common goal, show up on time, and be accountable for their actions. That seems logical enough to me. I'd encourage you to go to a meeting and talk to one of the people in a street teams shirt and ask them why they volunteer and how their priorities in life have changed since they started.

Lastly, your comparing the homeless in Palo Alto to Jews in WWII Europe is your hold up, not everyone else's. The shirts are meant to unify the group as a team, not to marginalize them from society. It wouldn't make much sense for a sports team to wear different colored uniforms, would it? [Portion removed.]

1 person likes this
Posted by philipc
a resident of another community
on Dec 19, 2014 at 4:10 pm

[Post removed.]

16 people like this
Posted by Phil
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 19, 2014 at 4:57 pm

@ Eileen Richardson:
"That approach has helped more than 600 team members "graduate," which means they hold stable jobs and maintain housing on their own. Graduates have moved on to work at grocery stores, pet-cleaning businesses and even for the City of Palo Alto, Richardson said"

Where is proof of your numbers for it is implausible for people to earn enough money working full time at grocery stores or a pet cleaning businesses without being subsidized in some manner.

“Then we see families like Vicky, who are holding down full-time jobs as a substitute teacher, but can’t make ends meet because housing is so expensive.”
Web Link

Ad blitz in transit hubs designed to break homeless stereotypes
By Heather Knight Updated 7:31 pm, Sunday, November 30, 2014
Web Link

How much money did the Downtown Streets Team take in for 2013 and 2014?
How much money was spent on staff?
How much money went to DST's clients?
How many of your clients were forced to participate in your program in order to avoid jail time for petty offenses?

9 people like this
Posted by Streetwise preacher
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 20, 2014 at 2:50 pm

The truth is always stranger than fiction, and much more interesting.
Yet the truth is rarely reported in any news publication. This article is no
exception to that, it is clearly biased and fictional.
A "reporter" digs for the information using several sources, Jennah Feeley
I think you need to "study" journalism. You have half the story, where is the other half the story? Phil has asked questions, what he is asking is
"where is the proof? where is the accountability? It was NOT forthcoming from Eileen Richardson [portion removed..
So, getting to the "dignity" part of rising out of homelessness, I have been there, done that. I can testify that the label "homeless" is not swift
to wash away. Human dignity is not for sale, nor is it gotten by wearing some yellow shirt. Human dignity originates in the mind and soul, and circumstances can not impair it.
For the Bible states; "such as a man (or woman) thinks, That is what He is".
The "team member" idea was stolen from Wal-Mart, the corporation that has the worst Human Rights violations of any business.
So, Eileen Richardson, how about making public the documentation proving
your "success" stories about former homeless persons that are now holding down a job, living independent, without government assistance?
[Portion removed.]

7 people like this
Posted by Edgarpoet
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 20, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Pretty good article, but as Phil states, where is the accountability?
I think when some non profit gets public funding, there has to be some
true and honest documentation as to how those funds are really spent.

Team members are paid with gift cards, they are NOT given paychecks,
don't pay any city payroll taxes, and no social security is collected.
I question how this gives "self worth" back to the homeless?

Since there is NO documentation proving any success story, this remains
"a story" as streetwise preacher has stated.
[Portion removed.]

1 person likes this
Posted by Skeptic
a resident of another community
on Dec 20, 2014 at 3:16 pm

"Show Us the Money!"

1 person likes this
Posted by Skeptic
a resident of another community
on Dec 20, 2014 at 3:22 pm

The Weekly quickly pulled this article down to the bottom after Phil posted his journalistic inquiry. I guess the Weekly doesn't want people to read of a possible controversy.

1 person likes this
Posted by Chuck Jagoda
a resident of Barron Park
on Dec 20, 2014 at 8:17 pm

Chuck Jagoda is a registered user.

I really should read this rag more often. Who knew that regular folks had the same discussion we all do in our Stop The Ban meetings? We discuss the fact that the Downtown Streets Team doesn't pay a living wage; keeps regular street cleaners out of work; and in general has some anti-Labor policies.

I am stuck in the middle. I get my friends who say the above. I admire them and their dedication to progressive principles. I've had my struggles against anti-Labor practices in my life. But I joined the DST-- over a year ago. After a couple of years of resisting friends who were on the team and encouraged me to join. But I was leery of more of the compulsory ass-kissing I and other friends had encountered from InnVision at the Opportunity Center.

At that time DST and InnVision were both housing in the Oppportunity Center and I thought it all the programs were run by the same org. I was not in a hurry to “volunteer” for peanuts. Besides-- I could get the occasional gig on Craigslist if I needed more work. But I did want shelter. Five years in my car and shelters left me very sure of that. So I put my misgivings in my pocket-- along with my pride (picking up litter didn't attract me)-- and joined. To get shelter. I knew a number of people they had gotten into apartments of their own-- no easy accomplishment in Palo Alto in particular and Silicon Valley in general-- where fear of affordable housing is actually greater than fear of Ebola.

It's been all good since then. At first I thought about how I could get out of the compulsory Thursday meetings. Then I got addicted to the success stories; the raw emotion of hearing people's lives change right in front of you. I found that important info about housing and other opportunities were announced at the meeting and nowhere else I knew of. I joined DST to get housing and got a couple of quite fun jobs along the way; a day at VMWare with their recruiters and other staff; a free smart phone and job helping my fellow team members learn how to use their smart phones; and a motel room for the winter. And free classes in job seeking; computer literacy; and personal development. And a sense of belonging in general and on a crew doing a job and a sense of making a contribution to the life around us.

My rabble-rousing colleagues at Stop The Ban say that I've gotten all these benefits in an effort to buy off my loud mouth. I don't really think so but I can't know what goes on in other people's minds. I'd say my reputation as a loose cannon who might say something embarrassing at any moment is pretty secure-- with family; friends; colleagues AND the City Council.

The Downtown Streets Team is an enigma. It fails certain tests for principles of people like Stop the Ban members (including me) and Alice Green and plenty of others. Yet it is unmistakenly a god send to many homeless people-- more so or at least as much as-- any other service org I know of in this area. Maybe the conclusion is that doctrinaire principles are good and important and should not be lightly thrown aside-- but neither should actual improvements in the lives of homeless people.

Even InnVision helps at least some people sometimes. But DST keeps doing more and more and expanding their mandate to helping people of all groups of all needs and giving people chance after chance after chance. They don't have homeless input into homeless-affected decisions but neither do most other service orgs. Heart and Home--- the Stanford student-started collaborative that shelters homeless women (and of which I'm one of the homeless members of the Board of Directors) is the only exception I know of.

I thought I pretty much knew DST and what they/we do. Then I keep discovering something else they do and someone else they've helped that I didn't know about before.

I'd like to ask Palo Alto Online to send whoever is in charge of censoring out offensive content in these comments to please go to SONY where they need his/her timidity.

I speak for myself but also others who feel the protection from comments is over done. It would also be nice if a comment writer could go back and edit his comment-- maybe even in cooperation with whoever is such a worry wort there.

We feel over protected and that we have no input into the conversation about what should be cut from the comments.

Also it's way too easy to lose a half hour of comment here. All of a sudden what you wrote has disappeared. I've done it so often I now go immediate to a word processor to write my comment. Then when I'm satisfied with it I copy and paste it into your primitive comment system. It would really only take someone to do a little research into the system you presently use or other systems that work better. You are the Palo Alto Weekly. You (not to mention we your readers) deserve better tools. Don't you think? We all have known we're dealing with defective equipment here for a year or more-- right?

--Chuck “Your source for the untold truth about homelessness in Palo Alto and Santa Clara County” Jagoda

6 people like this
Posted by Phil
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 20, 2014 at 9:09 pm

Chuck I am glad to hear that you personally are benefiting from DST's resources to enjoy a better quality of life. But in the grand scheme of things is DST perpetuating the exploitation of the poor by subsidizing labor and housing costs or is is it truly shifting the ever widening gap between the wealthy and the poor?

You surely are not earning enough money to meet the market rate for housing in Palo Alto or anywhere close.

In reality is DST and comparable organizations more harmful than good to the poor workers of America and beyond?
"Chinese Made Toys: Forced Labor and Violations of Local Law"
Web Link

If so wouldn't that make you a pawm being used to cause more harm than good? And that you are going along with it because you personally are benefiting from selling out the same way some of the Jews sold out to the NAZIs in 1930s and 1940s, Jews who were identified as "CAPOS," and treated their fellow Jews worse than the NAZIs.

You are housed not because you have produced a product or service that pays you an income based upon the free market. You are housed and because DST has subsidized your housing cost.

Make no mistake about it Chuck, you are a not meeting the market's demand for output to deserve a place to live in Palo Alto or anywhere in the bay area and the sole reason why DST exists is because of the inequality between housing and pay to low wage earners.

Like most homers I know, so long as they get theirs they don't care about anyone else. There are tens of thousands of people who are on the verge of homelessness or are going to be homelessness because instead of dealing with the root cause of income inequality society has created the Poverty Pimp Industry in order to maintain the income inequality.

You and your bogus success story are being used and exploited by the capitalists and major corporations to justify not correcting the market in favor of the majority, in favor of labor.

"It is essential that there should be organization of labor. This is an era of organization. Capital organizes and therefore labor must organize." Theodore Roosevelt

I remember when Wall-Mart came into our town and sold their bread, milk and eggs at a loss to drive the mom and pop stores out of business and then once the mom and pop stores went out of business Wall-Mart increased the priced of its bread, milk and eggs all the while trotting out Uncle Tom's promoting how Wall-Mart gave them a great job.

Though locally and personally DST appears to be of great benefit, yet what would happen if all of sudden a studio apartment in Palo Alto dropped to $300.00 a month?

Would you need DST then Chuck?

Until America deals with the uneven playing field of the cost of labor for the products and services that it provides to its citizens then you are benefiting off of slavery Chuck.

"Growing Number of Americans Can’t Afford to Buy or Rent"
Web Link

Fed: Gap Between Rich, Poor Americans Widened During Recovery
Consumer Survey Finds Average Family Didn't Recover Wealth Lost From 2007-2010
Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 20, 2014 at 9:42 pm

Phil - You are literally attacking the working poor for working, instead of being pawns of rich white political activists. very sad. I'm joining team Chuck.

Like this comment
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 20, 2014 at 9:43 pm

>> You surely are not earning enough money to meet the market rate for housing in Palo Alto or anywhere close.

Phil, while that may be true, just looking at that fact in isolation is meaningless.

There are lots of people who have jobs that do not allow them to live in Palo Alto or anywhere close,
yet Palo Alto and anywhere close has tens of thousands of jobs of this type.

The implications of those two facts is what needs to sink into people, but most folks are too busy keeping their heads above water to worry about who is under them, and many of threatened by just thinking about it. Creating a society that has the time to think and feel in depth about others is a major part of what I think would called civilization. We may have more stuff and more fancy people slinging it, but I'd question as to whether we have increased or decreased our level of civilization at all.

The idea that the few people who might get some help actually skewing the wage market is weak.

10 people like this
Posted by Phil
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 20, 2014 at 10:24 pm

@ Mr. Recycle you have made an assertion without backing it up with any data or facts, thus your position is based upon some personal agenda and not objectivity.

@ CPD, I've engaged you several times. You live in an insulated and skewed perspective of the world that fits your ideology. You refuse to accept any facts or truth that is contrary to your limited, biased view of the world while continually spinning off your intellectual morass as if you know something about economics. You have not once ever refuted any of the facts that I have put forth.

Fact: in the 1970 teenagers working part time manned fast food restaurants for non-self sustaining pay.
Fact: in the 2000s adults working part and full time man fast food restaurants for non-self sustaining pay.
Web Link

Fact: in 1975 a UPS delivery driver could afford to buy a house in Palo Alto.
Fact: in 2014 a UPS deliver driver cannot afford a studio apartment in Palo Alto.

According to Crescent Park Dad it is okay to force the poor to spend another 10% of their income and 2 hours of their day commuting to work rather than the wealthy which is the exact opposite of what you get in New York.

The Government Accountability Office report found that in 2009, federal agencies spent about $2.9 billion on more than 20 programs that targeted homelessness. If that money were to be targeted toward the building of homes, at say, $200,000 per home, it could theoretically produce 145,000 houses.
Web Link

Here is something to think about:
Web Link

Now CPD will state that the UPS driver does not deserve the right to live close to his job because the UPS driver does not make enough money to live close by, yet what would happen if the UPS driver said that he would no longer deliver any packages unless he was paid a wage the could pay for local rent?

UPS would simply hire another worker to replace him. That is what Whole Foods, Starbucks, Wall-Mart, Costco, Peet's, Safeway and many other corporations have been able to do because there is a surplus of low-skilled workers and they aim to keep it tat way.

You will always here CPD talk about how the teacher, the fireman, the police officer, the ambulance driver, the butcher, etc... should live in Manteca or Modesto but not any any of the people whom they serve.

I say that Google, Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Apple should be denied anymore office or research and development space on the Peninsula just as society as denied any more low income housing space on the Peninsula.

This would force these large companies to locate thousands of their jobs in towns and cities that can accommodate every spectrum, stratum and economic level necessary for a functioning society.

It is real simple, there are too many high paying technical, engineering and professional jobs in the bay area to sustain a living wage for all adult wage earners.

Even with latest micro housing boom in Mountain View and Redwood City the lack of housing is negatively affecting the professionals' ability to enjoy the normal desires of life of building a home and family.

Like this comment
Posted by Lynn Huidekoper
a resident of Menlo Park
on Dec 21, 2014 at 2:10 am

Where are your solutions? And what are YOU doing to improve the world as it is?

1 person likes this
Posted by work is good
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 21, 2014 at 8:31 am


You've brought up some good grievances. As a woman, the difference in pay inequality between men and women really makes me mad. Seeing a guy who may not even be as smart or as nice getting paid more for doing less is no fun. And guys are always the boss, the CEO, etc.

In this case, the work seems to be of a temporary nature, so your slavery argument does not apply. I would also count housing as a form of compensation. The uniforms I'm not so crazy about. The real value though appears to be what the article mentions, sense of purpose. All of us have to start somewhere. FIrst time workers do unpaid internships (temporarily) and that can lead to lasting opportunities. The meetings, and training offered are like outplacement services which usually cost a lot of money. This organization seems to provide a combination of a lot of different things that no other group does. Whatever they receive will not be enough, and I do plan on contributing.

About apartments going to $300 in Palo Alto. That won't happen by a market move, you realize that right? It would have to be a heavily subsidized event and that will rely on appeals like the one being made here to support an organization which is providing a social service. Instead of knocking each other, it will help if all social service organizations work together.

One last thought, making more good paying jobs available may help the people who already have jobs and grow the economy even further, but the kind of effort it takes to help those without anything I would say is the kind of work this group is doing. If anything, growth in the economy with the current structure and incentives is proving to be very useless in helping those in need. Until things change, it's just people helping people.

Like this comment
Posted by Cui Bono
a resident of another community
on Dec 21, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Eileen Richardson is the Executive Director of both Downtown Streets, Inc., where she works 40 hours a week, and Peninsula HealthCare Connection, Inc., where she works 20 hours a week.

Peninsula HealthCare Connection, Inc.’s Tax Exempt Information Return for the calendar year ending December 31, 2012, is at Web Link.

Downtown Streets, Inc.’s Tax Exempt Information Return for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013 is at Web Link.

2 people like this
Posted by streetwise preacher
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 21, 2014 at 3:39 pm

Where are your solutions Lynn? Do you think that slave labor is fine?
Would you say that picking up litter and cleaning parking garages would
look great on some resume and prepare a person for employment of a
upward career path? Please let us know YOUR solutions.

Cui Bono, Yes, we know the creative ways that tax preparers appease the IRS
I was NOT asking for the tax returns, I was asking for some documented
proof that DST has actually some results, and what percentage of "team members" actually graduate and get hired on by some software corp like Google or Facebook? OR do these people graduate then go back to living
a homeless life because they can not "cope" with the responsibility of
1) earning a living
2) paying bills
3) staying sober
4) not making excuses for their flawed behavior
5) clinging to some "babysitter"
DST is exactly this: a poverty merry go round supported by taxpayer dollars
and grant money which is NOT earned.
It is a well thought up scheme to make some administrator wealthy
so She can buy a million dollar home in Mountain View, and live a cush life
at the real expense of those "team members"
It is also saving the City of Palo Alto millions of dollars so they can
waste money hiring "consultants" to teach city employees how to use
social media, etc.
The "team members" (they have no name) are all pawns on the chess board
and this is their third round of being victims of a Capitalist society
that cares nothing about your "human worth" or Human dignity".
For you folks that like Chucks story, lets see what happens to Chuck
after he graduates.. Will he be offered a sustainable job to afford the rents in the Bay Area? or will he just re-enlist and be put on the poverty merry-go-round?

Like this comment
Posted by work is good
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 21, 2014 at 3:48 pm

Nothing is sacred anymore and thought this was a volunteer organization at all levels.

Those tax returns show a lot of money exchanged and it would be nicer to have seen that the executives also volunteer. Apparently it's not just people helping people. It's money helping people to help people?

7 people like this
Posted by Phil
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 21, 2014 at 4:16 pm

@work is good:

The reference to the $300 studio was to illustrate income inequality and the lack of living wages based upon local low income workers being forced to compete against a surplus of workers in other economies around the world where housing and other living costs are much cheaper. There is a reason why we put into place numerous labor laws in this country from 1900 through the 1970s yet now we allow our corporations to circumvent these laws and the result is the greatest number of people living in poverty and homelessness in the last 50 years.

20,000 Homeless Bay Area Schoolchildren – How Did We Get Here?
Web Link

California still has highest U.S. poverty rate
Web Link

@ Cui Bono

In the 2011/2012 year salaries and compensation to the DST employees was appx. 33% of revenue taken in.

In the 2012/2013 year salaries and compensation to the DST employees rose 15% to 48% of the revenue taken in.

What will DST employees’ salaries be next year, 55% of the revenue?

DST kind of has the same arc that of a typical CEO in the free market:
The CEO-to-worker compensation ratio was 20-to-1 in 1965 and 29.9-to-1 in 1978, grew to 122.6-to-1 in 1995, peaked at 383.4-to-1 in 2000, and was 295.9-to-1 in 2013, far higher than it was in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, or 1990s.
Web Link

You still haven’t answered my question though.
Eileen Richardson asserted that 600 clients have obtained jobs that enable them to pay rent without any aid, (“maintain housing on their own”), somewhere on the Peninsula I presume.

How many of these people actually pay market rate for their housing solely out of the proceeds from their own income without any subsidy or charity from other sources?

11 people like this
Posted by Phil
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 21, 2014 at 4:22 pm

@ Mr. Jagoda,

There are literally hundreds of jobs at local businesses available right now; Whole Foods, Peet's, Starbucks, CVS, UPS, and many other retail stores. You seem like a bright and articulate guy, why can't you obtain a job at one of these businesses?

And if you did would you earn enough to pay your rent on your own as Ms. Richardson claims?

Like this comment
Posted by work is good
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 21, 2014 at 5:16 pm


That funny equation though, and maybe an economist can step in.

There are other reasons why other economies in the world have lower housing and living costs - some it's because you may not want to live in them. The comparable economies (in size), which are democratic and socially conscious (not saying we are too much), have housing and living costs much much much higher than here (if that even seems possible). And some have higher housing and living costs because of other imbalances. The hotter the economy, the crappier the housing and living costs.

We have apparently not yet figured out how to grow and be socially responsible. I happen to agree with you that the companies that circumvent laws (ie avoid taxes with masterful structures) are doing a lot of harm by taking advantage of the system. And there are many other ways everyone takes advantage of the system (even non-profits).

Labor laws, like many other laws are not working for us. We're all in line expecting things that nobody - apparently nobody is really taking care of.

What you would not be able to guarantee anyone in a hot economy is low cost housing. Unless you are Sweden or something, but I would bet Mr. Jagoda could not afford Sweden housing either.

5 people like this
Posted by Howard
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 21, 2014 at 6:22 pm

Work is Good,

Perhaps it was Freudian, but the use of "Hot Economy" is quite appropriate if used in the colloquial.

The superprofits that fund the land value appreciation are indeed "hot", stolen, from the many millions of global workers, paid a pittance (if at all) for their labor assembling and mining raw materials for the mind-numbing technology gadgets that are so important for our socialization. Paid in worker's health, children's health, the environment’s health. Manufactured by government induced restructuring plans that forcibly remove people from their common land to then be exploited by the world market.

Do you think that colonialism and slavery has ended? That is what props up this economy, as well as policies that have been made since the 70s which have exacerbated it, to the benefit of few, and the hardship of many.

See the recent BBC report on Apple's manufacturing supply chain.

As far as some of the comments regarding the personal failures of some the homeless, I would say beware of casting that stone. Automation, Outsourcing, and Insourcing are affecting more and more people, many of whom are 1 paycheck away from homelessness.

Likewise, health problems, whether genetic, psychosocial, or military service induced, are societal issues whether we like it or not. Age discrimination, liveable wages, and lack of true community support are likewise very difficult issues to address without popular mobilization and making the problems visible.

Sweeping the streets and helping the rich organize their garages will not make these problems go away. Criminalization and Nudge Theory approaches will fail or turn authoritarian as they have throughout history.

The problem is not "the homeless as people", it is an article claiming to make a difference, when it is just a small ripple on a large ocean.

4 people like this
Posted by Phil
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 21, 2014 at 7:37 pm

@work is good,

generally I agree with your premise about a the hotter local economy the less affordable housing becomes, yet this was not the case during the late 1940s through the 1970s locally. The economy was hot in that if a person was capable of working he/she could obtain a job that paid more than a living wage. In fact in the late 1960s a delivery driver could afford to purchase a house here in Palo Alto, that is how good the economy was at least locally. So the question is, why can't a delivery driver even afford a one bedroom apartment in Palo Alto or even Redwood City today? Supply and Demand, the market, like all markets, are manipulated to create a specific outcome. Currently the local, (greater bay area), market has created a shortage of housing over the last 30 years to the number of jobs that it has created over that same time frame. As I pointed out to Crescent Park Dad this imbalance has made it impossible for low wage earners to meet basic human needs. This imbalance could be rectified but the powers that be do not want to rectify it for in doing so more of the profits from corporations and businesses would be distributed to the workers.

The high cost of housing is the leverage that corporations and property owners use to keep wages and benefits low. If a laborer owns his own house on his own land and does not need to hand over thirty to seventy percent of his income to someone else the laborer's bargaining position with prospective employers becomes greater enabling the worker to obtain better pay.

I don't have a problem with helping those who are down and out, I do have a problem in the way that DST promotes itself as being a solution to the problem when the reality is DST is enabling the powers that be to avoid making the necessary changes to the economy which would truly eliminate the majority of homelessness and poverty.

"We make the rules of the economy – and we have the power to change those rules." – Robert Reich
Web Link

To use an analogy: The economy is like a water pipe to the city that has a leak. This leak creates a puddle on the ground. This puddle represents the homeless and at risk of being homeless. A plumber comes along and tells the Mayor and the people of the City that he will fix the problem. So the Mayor pays the plumber to fix the problem. But instead of fixing the leak in the pipe to get everyone back in the economy the plumber mops up the puddle and puts it into a bucket and not only that, but the plumber doesn't even mop up the whole puddle but just a small portion of the puddle. Then the plumber touts himself as being a great success for mopping up a small portion of the puddle endearing himself to the Mayor and other powers that be so as to garner a perpetual income from the Mayor to mop up the puddle without ever fixing the true cause of the puddle, the leak; for the plumber knows that in the day that the leak is fixed he himself will be without a well paying job. And fortunately for the plumber the leak becomes bigger and bigger over time providing the plumber with even more income.

In reality, DST and Eileen Richardson want homeless people to exist and need homeless people to exist in order for their own organization to exist. And in order for her mini-empire to grow and expand she needs more homeless people not less.

DST revenue increased $702,579 going from $1,031,788 in 2011'12 to $1,734,367 in 2012'13, that is a 60% increase in size.

5 people like this
Posted by Streetwise preacher
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 21, 2014 at 9:04 pm

This is not about real estate values in Silicon Valley, This is about
The people who operate non profits, generally speaking, have a philosophy.
This philosophy expounds that "its perfectly alright" to obtain wealth
at the expense of the dignity and self worth of another person. And Eileen Richardson take this 4 to 5 steps further by "pretending to be" concerned
about those very people she is oppressing.
I would not and did not join this Downtown Street Team, but I choose to spend 3 winters in a freezing sardine can, A Nissan truck. I have some physical damage to my right foot, but retained my "dignity" and kept my human rights.

My self esteem is not for sale, my dignity is my identity. Wal-Mart offered me a job, I would not say their pledge nor accept a new identity, so I lasted 1 day. I am a Christian, I do not sell out my identity to some corporation who does not care if I live or die.
DST operates exactly like Wal-Mart, as far as the team member idea is concerned.
The American Dream, obtainable to fewer and fewer people, is a delusional
materialism contrived to keep the underlings contented while the bankers,
insurance companies, attorneys and government rob you blind while the
new slaves mow your lawn, wash your car, change the baby diapers and walk your dog.
But for more and more, that American dream vanished when the company don't need you anymore. Now you have to live in your car, go to free meals
and go get a shower at the YMCA or join a gym just to keep yourself clean.

Your American dream did not vanish on its own, it had help from the
very corporations that are helping you now. That is, they are helping
keep you right where you are, homeless and destitute. And your education level and prior experience on your resume actually hurts your chances
of recovery.
The new American dream for those fortunate few who own property in Palo Alto
is to dream up ways to use the new waves of cheap labor to completely replace the overpaid workers still hanging onto their employment.
The future looks bleak for the unwise and weak!
So the socialist idealism that is the principal of Downtown Streets Team
will flourish and spread into neighboring communities of uneducated
unsuspecting citizens just waiting to be "used".
Isn't life just wonderful, after all, we have much opportunity here in the USA. We can begin at Wal-Mart and who knows, someday we may be a CEO of a
corporation, or executive of a Non-profit, anything is possible! Just ask Chuck!

4 people like this
Posted by Phil
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 21, 2014 at 9:52 pm

Chinese Made Toys: Forced Labor and Violations of Local Law
"As the holiday season descends upon us, Americans will be heading to the stores and making purchases of toys. Where do the toys come from? Most of us can guess that most toys are made in China. But there is little awareness of the Chinese worker who makes the toys."
Web Link

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Posted by work is good
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 21, 2014 at 10:22 pm


"Do you think that colonialism and slavery has ended?"

No, I don't. Broadly speaking we are all screwed.

These days it's all better known as corruption. But even the term corruption means nothing anymore.

"hot economy" sounds better :)

More specifically though, short-term jobs without pay are not slavery, if they are structured to lead to something better.

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Posted by Cui Bono
a resident of another community
on Dec 22, 2014 at 3:10 pm

Here is a link to KCBS radio’s program “KCBS In Depth” that has an audio of InnVision Shelter Network’s December 22 program, “The Challenges Of Tackling Homelessness Amid The Rising Wealth Gap In Silicon Valley”, where KCBS In Depth speaks with Dr. Brian Greenberg, Vice President of Programs and Services for InnVision Shelter Network in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, about the current growing wealth gap in Silicon Valley that’s lead in an increase of homeless in one of the most affluent areas of the country: Web Link

6 people like this
Posted by Phil
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 22, 2014 at 8:40 pm

@ Cui Bono,

thank you for that link, it's good to know that Inn Vision's representative, Dr. Greenberg, is in favor of outlawing the use of vehicles by the homeless in an vain attempt to force the homeless to seek services from his organization. Some people would call that extortion.

He seems to contradict himself throughout the interview. First he states that Inn Vision's objective is to secure housing for the working poor in areas that they can afford such as the valley, (Manteca, Modesta, etc...), yet he acknowledges that these people are forced to commute to the bay area for their jobs requiring many of them to live in their vehicles during the week and go back home on weekends.

He specifically states that Inn Vision is not going to address the income gap between the wealthy and the poor yet acknowledges that it is this gap that is the primary cause for a great deal of homelessness in that only the wealthy workers can afford housing.

According to Mr. Greenberg Inn Visions' purpose is to deal with homelessness on a case by case situation ensuring that they get a few people into permanent housing in towns and cities where they do not work.

Inn Vision is helping the wealthy gentrify the bay area by segregating the poor to the valley and perhaps that is the true, yet hidden, agenda of Inn Vision and the people who support Inn Vision.

Towards the end Mr. Greenberg trouts out the tried and true cause to poverty and homelessness, "a lack of education."

As the saying goes if everyone were a psychiatrist, a doctor, a lawyer, an astronaut then there would be nobody left to pick your fruit, stock your grocery shelves, take out the trash, bake your bread, make your latte and deliver your mail.

Mr. Greenberg has proved my earlier assertions that the social service industry does not want to eliminate homelessness because homeless people provide Mr. Greenberg and Inn Vision with guaranteed income.
Web Link

How do I know my assertions about Inn Vision and Mr. Greenberg are true, I know because if Inn Vision with its elite expertise were to put 30% of its time, effort and resources to correcting the dysfunctional housing economy Inn Vision could actually eliminate homelessness in the bay area within a few years.

It is not a matter of "can do" it is a matter of "want to" and ultimately Inn Vision and Mr. Greenberg do not "want to" end homelessness because it is "to Inn Vision's benefit" to maintain the homeless population and systemic poverty.

9 people like this
Posted by Phil
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 22, 2014 at 8:50 pm

@Cui Bono,

Ms. Richardson of the Downtown Streets Team is misleading the public and the government and those who donate money to her organization regarding the success of her organization. She has stated that 600 people have graduated through DST who now are supporting themselves when in fact that is not true.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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