Women's shelter to open again in Palo Alto

University Lutheran Church to host 12 to 15 women during the coldest winter nights

After a two-year hiatus, the Heart and Home Collaborative will again open its temporary shelter for homeless women at University Lutheran Church in Palo Alto this January.

The shelter, which Stanford University students launched in 2012, provides food, warmth and safety. Some homeless women report having been assaulted in mixed-gender shelters.

The shelter expects to house 12 to 15 women from Jan. 14 to Feb. 26; most who've stayed at Heart and Home in the past were 50 years and older. The women are recommended to Heart and Home by other organizations who work with homeless persons in the Palo Alto area, such as the Downtown Streets Team and Neighbors Helping Neighbors.

The vulnerability of that population was underscored in December 2013 when a homeless 72-year-old Palo Alto woman, Gloria Bush, froze to death in Heritage Park in downtown Palo Alto.

The Heart and Home clients are screened against the Megan's Law list to ensure they are not sex offenders, and all must certify they are not using or in possession of any recreational drugs. No alcohol or children are allowed, and clients cannot have weapons, noted Alan Hebert, a University Church liaison and collaborative board member. Persons with severe mental illness, which staff is not equipped to handle, also will cannot stay at the shelter, he said.

A paid, trained staff person will be at the shelter and awake all night, and a professional shelter manager will oversee daily operations, Hebert said.

The clients will arrive no earlier than 7 p.m. each evening, with dinner served at 7:30 p.m. Most clients will be in bed by 9:30 p.m. and will leave the site by 7 a.m. They are not expected to hang around the neighborhood.

"We anticipate, but of course will not know for sure until the clients are selected, that most of our clients will go to daytime jobs when they leave the shelter. In 2014, all but two were employed," he said.

The collaborative is also urging College Terrace residents to volunteer and meet clients.

"We strongly -- strongly -- encourage any College Terrace neighbors who are interested to sign up with Heart and Home and volunteer to bring food or visit," Hebert said.

Heart and Home was founded by the nonprofit organization InnVision (now LifeMoves) and was housed at several local churches.

It became its own nonprofit in 2013-2014, the same year Peninsula Bible Church on Middlefield Road and University Lutheran Church hosted the women's shelter for five weeks.

Heart and Home did not open in January 2015 and 2016 due to rising permit fees, decreased volunteer interest and a need for better communication with neighbors, Hebert said at the time.

This year the University Lutheran shelter will have a 45-day permit from the City of Palo Alto and a large number of Stanford student volunteers, Hebert said in an announcement.

Seeking to avoid past pitfalls in which some neighbors felt inadequately informed of a shelter in their midst, Heart and Home board members have been answering questions after Sunday services for the past three weeks. They will be at the church again on Dec. 18, noon-1:30 p.m., he said.

Neighborhood residents who would like to email questions can reach board member Aparna Ananthasubramaniam at through Dec. 22. After that date, Hebert can be reached at


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21 people like this
Posted by Chuck Jagoda
a resident of another community
on Dec 18, 2016 at 3:06 pm

Thanks to Palo Alto Online and Sue Dremann for another fine article on Heart and Home Collaborative Women's Shelter.

I'd like to correct one statement. The shelter was not started by Life Moves. It was started by Stanford students-- many of whom had been part of Night Outreach, a program that walks from the campus up Palm Avenue and down University Avenue and talks to people they meet on the street. The students used a radical, revolutionary, brilliant strategy unheard of in the housing of homeless people in Palo Alto and Santa Clara County: They asked homeless street people what they needed. Instead of going in with their minds made up about what should and shouldn't be done for poor people. These students ASKED the poor what they thought would be most helpful. They found that not only were there few shelter beds for women only, but women in shelters were often fleeing abusing relationships and most desired of all was freedom from fears of men getting too close or finding out where they were. So Heart and Home has maintained high standards for confidentiality and keeping the location and identity of the people private.

It would be a wonderful thing if Life Moves, Housing First, Santa Clara County Homeless Services, and homeless services org would solicit input from those they would help and listening to that input. It would save money and provide much better services if the end users were included in planning and needs assessment. Very radical I know, but sometimes that's where we have to look if we want to uncover the best ideas.

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Mountain View

on Dec 19, 2016 at 6:21 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?

12 people like this
Posted by fcservices
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Dec 19, 2016 at 10:28 am

What wonderful news. Family & Children Services of Silicon Valley extends appreciation to all of the volunteers and to University Lutheran Church for reopening this important resource.

4 people like this
Posted by Jeremy
a resident of Southgate
on Dec 19, 2016 at 11:32 am

This is a Stanford project. Why isn't it housed there? Why does College Terrace always get such projects? I have two friends in CT, and they say they don't want it, because they are always the convenient target for these do-gooder placements.

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

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