With Cubberley 'shelter' closing, nonprofits plot next steps | August 23, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - August 23, 2013

With Cubberley 'shelter' closing, nonprofits plot next steps

Members of new task force consider ways to strengthen safety net for homeless

by Gennady Sheyner

A proposal by nonprofit groups in the Palo Alto area to target the most violent and disruptive homeless dwellers at Cubberley Community Center with "homeless outreach teams" of case managers is now fading from consideration as officials consider more delicate and less costly ways to provide assistance to the city's neediest population.

A "HOT program" was first proposed in a white paper submitted last month by InnVision Shelter Network, one of the agencies involved in a newly formed coalition charged with strengthening a support network for the city's homeless. The effort took on more urgency on Aug. 19, when the City Council approved a new policy that would shutter Cubberley Community Center at night, effectively closing what officials refer to as the city's "de facto homeless shelter."

The HOT program, which targets the most disruptive homeless individuals (as identified by police), is already in place in San Mateo, Redwood City and East Palo Alto. In Palo Alto, however, it doesn't look like the program will be making its debut any time soon. Mila Zelkha, a strategic relations fellow at InnVision Shelter Network, told the Weekly that the program is "off the table," at least for now. Rather than pushing for the new program, her nonprofit is now working with other groups in the newly formed Homeless Services Task Force to find ways to leverage existing programs to accommodate more homeless participants.

Zelkha said the idea of establishing a "HOT program" came up early in the discussions between the nonprofits and the City of Palo Alto. But as they followed the City Council's discussions on the topic, they came to a realization that it probably wouldn't be "the right tool right now," she said.

One significant reason has to do with funding. The council this week allocated $150,000 to programs to aid the homeless and charged the city to work with nonprofits to refine the proposed programs and return in October with specific proposals. This one-time contribution, however, falls short of what would be needed to sustain a HOT program, which Zelkha said requires more time and effort in order to achieve success. The program also has a limitation in that it focuses primarily on the most "difficult to serve" individuals, which may make it harder for homeless people who are not disruptive to get aid.

"All the other HOTs we had ever put in place have had a minimum of two years of funding. ... It's a great model, but I think given the realities of what kind of funding we have, the terms around the funding we're looking at, at least from the InnVision Shelter Network's point of view, we don't think that a HOT model is appropriate at this time," Zelkha said.

Instead, her nonprofit group and others in the task force are looking for ways to strengthen existing programs and promote more coordination between them. One idea would be to expand Hotel de Zink, which provides shelter to the homeless at religious facilities on a rotating basis. Zelkha said she is reaching out to the participating congregations, both in Palo Alto and in neighboring cities, to see if it would be possible to increase the number of beds from 15 to 20.

Zelkha said another idea on the table is providing more intensive case management to Hotel de Zink participants, whether they're looking for housing assistance, disability programs or job-development skills. While participants already get some assistance from case workers, the task force is considering ways to build on the existing programs and more effectively connect residents with the Opportunity Center, which offers food, housing, computer access and other programs for the homeless.

One possibility is having a van bring Hotel de Zink guests to the Opportunity Center in the morning so that they can participate in the day programming there, she said.

Another organization that could expand its services to soften the impacts of Cubberley's closure is WeHOPE, a nonprofit that runs a homeless shelter in East Palo Alto. The Rev. Paul Bains, its founder and president, told the council's Policy and Services Committee on Aug. 13 the shelter has already been accommodating some of the Cubberley dwellers. In recent weeks, the shelter had installed new showers, a particularly valuable amenity given that the Palo Alto officials plan to cut off the access of Cubberley residents to the center's showers on Aug. 31.

"If you don't mind coming across county lines and supporting us, we have part of your solution, I believe," Bains told the committee on Aug. 13.

The council's vote this week gives the nonprofit groups about a month to create a plan for homeless assistance. This plan would include recommendations for both short- and long-term actions for the city to take.

"There's a lot of great ideas out there that the service providers are bringing to the table," Zelkha told the Weekly. "I'm happy we're brainstorming together about how these components can fit together."

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at gsheyner@paweekly.com.


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Posted by No Room at the Inn
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 23, 2013 at 10:29 am

Obviously PA City Council doesn't care what happens to these people as long as they leave PA. To criminalize being poor without offering any option is unconstitutional, cruel, and disgusting. Welcome to Greenwich, CT (west coast edition).

If Mary and Joseph came to PA they would be greeted by a HOT team, rousted by the cops, and be sent to the Opportunity Center to learn about parenting skills.

Nice way to celebrate Dr. King's legacy.

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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 23, 2013 at 11:08 am

If you're going to dump on PA, then you need to step up and dump on every other city in the region, let alone the state.

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Posted by Greenmeadow neighbor
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 23, 2013 at 11:25 am

These city of PA ordinances have created the much needed action by the city, county, non-profic agencies and the community to focus and share resources to provide appropriate and safe support, services and facilities for this Santa Clara county problem while restoring health and public safety for the thousands of citizens who use the Palo Alto community centers, schools, parks, libraries, fields.
Separation of church and state, please.
Imposing faith-based shame creates a greater separation, and is self-indulgent, a waste of time and energy.
A few quotes come to mind. "There's no traction when one stays focused on their rut." "When you're in a hole, stop digging."
Let's use this energy positively engage in volunteering, donating and supporting the emerging coalition of initiatives to help the homeless in our community.

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Posted by J00
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 23, 2013 at 11:36 am

I thought Palo Alto was broke. What is this nonsense of giving homeless programs $150,000. The money should go to the Palo Alto Animal Services Organization, who do more to benefit the city than another location where drug pushers and violent offenders could stay within city limits. This is completely crazy.

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Posted by member
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 23, 2013 at 11:57 am

My son went to Greendell grammar school way back when - Cubberley location. The school was closed, then reactivated. This is a location where children are, as well as the current location of the library where we encourage children to come. I drove through here this morning and can see evidence of homeless vans still at the location. A school is a non-profit, as well as the community center. This is no place for homeless people that may have questionable mental health issues. They need to be removed from a location where we are promoting children's activities. Any organization calling itself a "non-profit" does not get any more traction if it is promoting adult homeless people in a location where children are.
Don't start the discussion with "we are a non-profit" - start it with we are concerned about where these people are in relation to where we want our children to feel safe. The children come before the homeless adults.

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Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 23, 2013 at 12:00 pm

the_punnisher is a registered user.

Where are all the activists that should be opening their residences for the homeless? Or is all you do is complain that OTHER PEOPLE should be more compassionate?

An idea: Keep Cubberley " shelter " open, BUT ADD A POLICE SUBSTATION AND A WORK RELEASE STATION.

You want a place to stay? How about earning your pay? Other Counties, Cities and States have the modern equivalent of the " chain gang " to take care of roads and civic upkeep. Try to escape..BOOM, one less person to deal with and pay taxes for.

You don't like it? LEAVE and don't come back!

That moves YOUR responsibility for your survival back where it belongs: YOU!

If you are a true victim of circumstance, you will not mind earning your room and board and use any method you can to get back on your feet. For the professional homeless, work or else...and that means NO MORE FREE RIDES AT THE TAXPAYER'S EXPENSE.
Just think:
The same people using Cubberley facilities could now be responsible for keeping them clean, just like every other residency that MUST keep them clean.

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Posted by Norm
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 23, 2013 at 1:44 pm

Look to Luke 6:31 to satisfy the recurring claim that "we are a Christian nation" and......never mind....

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Posted by How about this?
a resident of another community
on Aug 23, 2013 at 4:17 pm

I am a former City of Palo Alto employee who left to maintain affordable health benefits. Since then I have not found a solid $20/hour job to be able to sustain living here and I have no family in another state to go to. I also lost my low rent and I was one week away from being homeless in December 2012 and was going to have to live in my car while all my possessions are in storage. I again have a November move out date from my current place of residence. The people have been generous allowing me to stay and I will not overstay my welcome. I used to tell my friends "it will be ok, I can always go park at Cubberley where it would be safe." So I find it ironic to be in the same situation. Imagine you being a government worker for 30 years, raised a successful family, only to be homeless and without a steady job. IF IT COULD HAPPEN TO ME, IT COULD CERTAINLY HAPPEN TO YOU. And to the completely insensitive people on this post who say "druggies and gang-bangers stay in your town".....what do you say about former government employees? Right now I want to give you a BIG F-YOU but will be the bigger person and hope that you NEVER have to be in my shoes. P.S. and SHAME to those who allowed my dilemna to transpire and a HUGE SHAME on you to those management staff who continue to get raises on lower paid employees backs, and my biggest disgust is that James Keene continues to allow tax payer dollars to be misused in such gross ways. Ok, ok, ok and some blame/shame HAS to go to the citizen taxpayers for allowing Keene to operate with no oversight. (Sorry, Council is not an oversight group because they believe cart-blanche what they are told by top management without verifying information or having knowledge or certain issues.) Bye for now. Can I rent your driveway for a safe nights sleep, PLEASE?

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Posted by Comedy
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 23, 2013 at 6:00 pm

Palo Alto is fun! ...Gotta' love a city where people would suggest we help the animal shelter first because it does more good. LOLOL! COMMUNITY AID? ... the proposition to give aid to people living in their vehicles? ... Isn't this the city that ended the community services help/referral phone line and community aid kiosks?
NON DISCRIMINATORY? Martin Luther King Plaza dedication? Isn't this the city that ended the collection of racial profiling data? With the premise that the city would address it if it became a problem? Need a the police? Look two blocks in form any north city gateway.
RESTRICTIONS on living in your vehicle?...Isn't this the city that's 1200 units behind on low income housing? GREEN? It's a commuter destination for work because there is not affordable housing.

JOBS? IF "those people" aren't working it's because they chose not to?! Have you been out there looking for a job lately ? Lots of PT and $10 -15 dollar an hour jobs. And the financial sustainability level here is what? ...$45,000 is poverty for a family of 2.

Face it - we are out of touch...The majority of people who live here either inherited their homes, bought 30 years ago, or are millionaires...
If we actually have housing here it's because "it's for those of us who DESERVE IT!"
..eat cake.

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Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 26, 2013 at 11:46 am

@How about..?

You left a job to "maintain affordable health benefits"? If you had such while employed, why leave?

If I had no job & were about to be homeless, with no family around, I'd move to a more affordable place where I could work & afford a roof. Besides having no home, do you get free food someplace? Working for $10 an hour is better than not working at all.

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Posted by Berry
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 26, 2013 at 3:45 pm

[Post removed.]

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Posted by businessdecision
a resident of another community
on Aug 26, 2013 at 4:11 pm

[Post removed.]

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Posted by businessdecision
a resident of another community
on Aug 27, 2013 at 7:06 am

I'll keep you busy shutting down my posts

why? because you censor the wrong things

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Posted by businessdecision
a resident of another community
on Aug 27, 2013 at 7:10 am

sorry-- thought you deleted another post rather than that one.

Anyone see, NYT yesterday, Columbia, South Carolina booting the homeless. It seems that if the homeless left here, they'd waste money trying to find a place that WOULD accept them.

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Posted by member
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 27, 2013 at 12:12 pm

The topic of Homeless in Palo Alto actually came up in the New York Times. How did we become a focus group for Homeless? I think there should be an evaluation of how other cities in the greater bay area are handling the budget issues and resources for this effort - same size cities. We are not competing with SF and San Jose - they are major cities with major resources and budgets. What is Atherton doing? Menlo Park? Redwood City? San Mateo? Burlingame?

We already know that Nevada is sending people to SF on Greyhound buses - law suit in progress on that topic. Are they drifting down to PA? Further evaluation needs to be done to scope out comparison with other cities, resources, and make-up of type people here. Other cities may have a better way of handling this issue.

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Posted by Michele Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 27, 2013 at 12:17 pm

The reason PA is in the NYT for mistreating the homeless and forcing them out is that PA is a supposedly liberal community in liberal Norcal with plenty of money and resources that could take care of people but instead is acting terribly. I am ashamed of how Palo Alto is treating the homeless. We seem more like San Joaquin county in the 1930s than Santa Clara County in the twenty first century. Silicon Valley likes to brag about making the world a better place and doing no evil. Is turning a blind eye and a cold shoulder to those in need doing no evil? It is the contrast between a wealthy liberal place and a conservative response that is gaining the attention of the national media.

And well it should.

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Posted by pa_eye
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 27, 2013 at 12:50 pm

The Palo Alto Police Report Log for Monday, August 26 showd an incident "MUNI CODE/DRINKING IN PUBLIC" for 4000 Middlefield Road (Cubberley Community Center). The incident is logged as Friday, August 23 at 11:00am. Does anyone know if this was when the police filed the report or when the incident actually occurred?

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Posted by Cheryl
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 27, 2013 at 12:50 pm

I'm concerned re the lumping of the homeless/jobless person trying to get enuf money together by living in their car with the drug-using/mentally disturbed. It became an excuse to kick them all out. I believe the Hotel De Zink homeless program vets the people who are staying in the local churches for shelter and food. Couldn't the same program vet people who need to sleep in their van or camper for a period of time and give them a safe 12 hr overnight place to park? How does such a liberal, think-tank, problem-solving community become so unable to contribute solutions to anything but higher profits!

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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 27, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Craig Laughton is a registered user.

>Is turning a blind eye and a cold shoulder to those in need doing no evil?

Michele, have you opened up a room in your home to a homeless person yet? If so, did you check with your immediate neighbors to see if they are OK with it?

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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 27, 2013 at 1:29 pm

I would like to suggest that perhaps PA is no longer as liberal of a town as others have thought in the past. This is not the only issue where people have started to push back on liberal policy in PA.

- budget accountability and calls for limited spending and/or self-supporting initiatives on programs such as Children's Theater.
- Animal Shelter funding versus a county program
- Paying for infrastructure through annual budgets instead of increasing taxes on homeowners and businesses.

The list is growing...

Certainly wouldn't call PA a conservative city. But the trend is moving towards middle of the road.

And it's not like PA is the only city that has developed more conservative policies. SF has overhauled its homeless programs where they don't give out cash any longer. Both Berkeley and Santa Cruz don't allow camping.

It could be argued that PA is finally catching up with the other "liberal" cities of the Bay Area and is evolving to support the majority of the residents and their concerns (instead of supporting the extreme minority opinions and squeaky wheels).

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Posted by Leslie
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 27, 2013 at 6:40 pm

[Portion removed.]

My observation of those that live in huge RVs at Cubberley is they are milking the system for free parking places and bathrooms. With huge campers like that they are not poor, but they sure have conned a lot of PA residents. Some of the car campers are even senior citizens receiving social security. They just like living in campers - rent free - instead of a fixed home they'd have to take care of.

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Posted by member
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 27, 2013 at 6:45 pm

Agree with Crescent Park dad. Being a liberal or conservative are labels people like to assign themselves. Call yourself anything you want if it makes you happy. Running a city is about budget, resources, manpower available. If you have noticed the pension for city workers is a big budget issue. We have a lot of big issues that require a lot of funding - our schools and parks, building of new libraries and community center which is overrunning its budget and schedule. We are not a big city. Suggest that the county of Santa Clara take a look at consolidating the services for the cities since we are all about the same size - except San Jose. Maybe consolidate all in San Jose.

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Posted by Michele Dauber
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 27, 2013 at 11:20 pm

Craig, have you personally killed anyone? No? Then how can you support our military? Have you built any highways? No? Then how can you drive on one? Do you collect trash 8 hours a day and drive it to the dump? No? Well stop putting it out at the curb.

Government exists to perform functions that not every individual has to also perform. See?

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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 28, 2013 at 9:13 am

>I am ashamed of how Palo Alto is treating the homeless

I'm not, Michele, in fact I am beginning to get a solid feeling that Palo Alto is finally taking life style and private property values seriously. Car campers have been banned. Homelessness needs to be criminalized, if it is to be seriously addressed...once that is done, then I would be willing to raise my taxes to force the homeless into shelters or mental facilities. However, I don't want my taxes used to enable homeless encampments, like Cub.

When you start to walk your talk, Michele, by taking in a homeless person, you will start to gain some moral respect, but not before then. I did it once, and I learned my lesson, but that choice is up to you.

Your analogies are pretty absurd. I pay for all the things you mentioned, through general taxation (military) or user fees (dump, highways).

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Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 28, 2013 at 9:18 am

Craig-- how do you know that Michelle has not " walked the talk"?
How do you know that Michelle has not taken in a homeless person ( the only way a person has the right to support the homeless, according to Craig)?
Does Michelle have to,report all her activities to you? Or are you somehow privy to everything she does?
You sound like a broken record.

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Posted by member
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 28, 2013 at 4:06 pm

College Terrace just went at it for people parking in the streets overnight. That is a huge safety issue. Midtown also - it is a safety issue in an area where children are going to school. I think this is a county issue - not a city issue. We pay taxes at the county level - property taxes, and at the state level. The county should figure out how to deal with this problem for all of the small cities within the county. Maybe Michelle should volunteer for county outreach for the homeless - put her energy to work here. With all of her insight on the homeless I am sure she will be a big help.

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