'Every time it rains, we get wet' | January 13, 2023 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - January 13, 2023

'Every time it rains, we get wet'

For unhoused people, dealing with inclement weather is 'business as usual'

by Malea Martin

Rain from the behemoth storm hitting the Bay Area had reduced to a drizzle in the afternoon on Jan. 4, but for some unhoused people, the brief respite meant time to prepare for what was to come.

Mountain View resident Elisa, who sleeps at a local shelter with her son at night but also owns an RV, was attempting to get a tarp secured atop her vehicle near the Shoreline Boulevard safe parking lot before the worst of the storm was predicted to hit later that night on Jan. 4.

When it rains, the RV's roof leaks and many of the family's belongings are at risk of getting wet or destroyed, said Elisa, who asked that her last name not be published to protect her privacy.

"Every time it rains, we get wet," Elisa said in Spanish as her son worked to secure their tarp, which was too small to cover the RV's roof.

"It comes through the side of the kitchen and the bathroom," Elisa said. "The clothes get wet," and with each rain storm, the roof gets weaker, she added.

The rain was light while Elisa and her son tried to secure the tarp, but intermittent gusts of wind puffed up the tarp like a sail, making it challenging to keep in place.

Other unhoused people who typically sleep on the streets must find somewhere dry to wait out the storm. Homeless resident David Strang, who has been unhoused in Mountain View for the last nearly two decades, said he's got it down to an art form.

"As far as the rain's concerned, I'm fine," Strang said. "A lot of people have a lot of trouble with it because they don't know how to get plastic bags."

Strang was sheltering from the rain near the Mountain View Civic Center in the afternoon on Jan. 5, the day after the rainstorm claimed its first damages in Mountain View, including downed power lines and flooded streets. Most of Strang's belongings were carefully wrapped in black trash bags to protect them from getting wet.

"Mountain View has a lot of good amenities, though," Strang said. "They've got CSA, they've got Hope's Corner. I don't really deal with them much, just because I'm picky, but they help a lot of people."

Dave Arnone, an advocate for the homeless who frequently distributes meals to unhoused residents, said the situation is nothing new.

"The homeless get cold and wet every year," he said. "In a lot of ways, this is business as usual for homeless folks in the winter."

While the atmospheric river aimed at California is causing more intense rainstorms than recent years, Arnone said the weather simply makes the existing, year-round issues that unhoused people face more apparent: lack of shelter space, hunger, transportation barriers and unsafe living conditions.

Kathryn Kaminski with the Santa Clara County Office of Supportive Housing said the county operates cold weather shelters seasonally. Kaminski said the shelters have been "fairly full" every day since the poor weather started.

"During weather periods where the weather is particularly dangerous, we also work with shelters to add additional inclement weather beds, which usually means putting beds and cots in lobbies to make sure as many people can get indoors as possible," Kaminski said.

As someone who sticks to the street, Strang said he's learned over the years how to get through the winter. This year is no different.

"You've got to find the overhangs, you've got to find where the wind isn't," he said. "You have to be into your survival."

Email Staff Writer Malea Martin at [email protected] Spanish translation by Magali Gauthier.


Posted by Native to the BAY
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 14, 2023 at 11:05 pm

Native to the BAY is a registered user.

Thank you very much for this article. As the Santa Clara unhoused count approaches, Palo Alto is an outlier. Still has not recognized a long time unhoused neighbor and individual who froze to death u death under a Yale & Cambridge overhang on Feb 28 2022. Ironically the morning of the county unhoused count and too, the coldest night of the year.

He was an unhoused in our community for decades. Neat & tidy w his four wheeled, covered-cart.

Often seen reading the paper, or hunkering down at the soccer field. I am sorry that this city of PA ignores those subsisting on our streets.

Even the severely disabled in wheelchairs, a young man in front of WallGreens downtown. He’s been out there in his vans sneakers, crouched double over, asking politely for coins since forever. Our Palo Alto youth see it. Yet there are very little mechanisms for our youth to help or understand the severity of such disparity in a massively wealthy city. How? Mountain View is dealing, why not Palo Alto? Realistically crossing a street can throw one into Los Altos, Mountain View Palo Alto, Menlo Park or East PA. Is there a joint authority power that work in Partnership across city/county boundaries? How about working together to help ? Just a thought.

Posted by Jacob Weiss
a resident of another community
on Jan 15, 2023 at 8:44 am

Jacob Weiss is a registered user.

Why doesn't Palo Alto do more to assist its homeless population?

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 16, 2023 at 5:42 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Every city in this vicintiy has a different amount of available "open space/empty wharehouses" to provide housing for the homeless - temporary during the winter months. Mountain View has a large amount of property east of 101 - Moffett Field with all of it's large hangers. Redwood City has many buildings that appear empty in the Seaport business area east of 101. Palo Alto's east of 101 preperty is the bay lands which are absorbing much of the current rainfall. That is the purpose of the baylands. Menlo Park has the VA buildings which could provie some shelter.

Palo Alto is built out to it's borders at every side of the city. The available space is on SU property. To me the question is what is SU doing to provide some relief at one of it's vacant buldings. That would be a great opportunity for the students to volunteer some time and energy during the winter months.

Posted by Lenora Jacobs
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 17, 2023 at 9:38 am

Lenora Jacobs is a registered user.

Mountain View is far more focused on assisting its homeless population than Palo Alto.

Why this is so is a question best left to Palo Alto residents and their city council.

Posted by Rick Grantham
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 17, 2023 at 1:44 pm

Rick Grantham is a registered user.

A Mountain View-Palo Alto coalition is needed to ease the homeless crisis.

Utilizing the countless motels along ECR would provide a start in the right direction as the lodgings could be subsidized by the city coffers.

A homeless surtax on PA/MV residents could also provide additional funding for such an endeavor.

And once a certain ceiling is met via accomodations, the police could then be utilized to expel surplus transients from the city limits.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 17, 2023 at 1:49 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Mountain View has large companies that are telling it's employees to stay home. They are also moving their businesses to other states. They are also firing employees. There is a raft of RV issues in Mountain View in political litigation. MV is focused because their set of problems are in part self created. Why do people keep chiming in that are creating false comparisons.

Posted by Henrietta Layne
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 21, 2023 at 3:20 pm

Henrietta Layne is a registered user.

"MV is focused because their set of problems are in part self created."

Isn't Palo Alto"s homeless problem self-created as well?

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