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Opportunity Center facing one-two punch

Original post made on Dec 18, 2008

The Opportunity Center in Palo Alto is housed in a five-story stucco building with arched entryways, glass doors and a sprawling ground floor that includes an outdoor courtyard, a computer room, offices, lockers, a playroom with computers, and a small dining area. [Web Link See story] ==B Photo by Veronica Weber/Palo Alto Weekly.==

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, December 19, 2008, 8:55 AM

Comments (29)

Posted by concerned
a resident of another community
on Dec 18, 2008 at 1:03 pm

Where are the philanthropist that can help in this issue? Why not give a dinner at maybe $50-100 dollars a plate with 75% of the monies going to this cause? Every year the city of Palo Alto host the Black and White Ball. Maybe this year a percentage of the profits can be given to the Palo Alto drop in center. Maybe the Palo Alto homeowners can give a community garage sale at one of the parks with the proceeds going to the drop in center. Palo Alto is one of the richest cities within the Bay Area, as well as the residence in the city of Stanford.
Palo Alto seems to be all about the "fuzzy feelings." So why not prove your love of fuzziness at this time of need.
Hopefully you and yours will never have to experience standing in the lines with the poor and needy.
Need I say more. Thank you for reading this post and maybe considering how you can help.

Posted by Citizen
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 18, 2008 at 1:16 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 18, 2008 at 4:49 pm

How about all the city employees who received $1.5 million in bonuses for reaching "goals of their jobs" contribute those bonuses - especially the top 75 of them.

Posted by Pauli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 18, 2008 at 5:10 pm

I agree with Kate. The city is wasting all kinds of money on things we don't need. Let's use that. The obscene bonuses employees receive merely for doing their jobs competently are a good place to start. Or we could eliminate a few consultants and studies - like the $110,000 airport study intended to gin up support for keeping the airport open for Atherton pilots. The list is long.

Posted by Worried
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 18, 2008 at 5:14 pm

What can we do right now to ameliorate this immediate crisis?

Of course, major funding - public and private - is needed.

In the meantime, though, as a stop gap measure, what do others think about starting a Facebook "cause" for the Opportunity Center - with pledges for getting members and donors? (Perhaps this has already been done.)

Can we together light a candle against this darkness?

It's hard to read this story on this cold night while in my warm home.

Posted by Pauli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 18, 2008 at 5:34 pm

One quote in the story, from a client of the OC, is particularly instructive for those of us who have argued that the OC is a magnet for the homeless and the associated social and criminal problems they come with.

One of the homeless clients indicated they're going to sleep in doorways in town, "If you ask us to leave, where do you think we're going to go?" "Another area?" This guy is right: once they've been drawn here by the handouts at the OC, there's little reason for them to move on. As bad as the condition for homeless is in PA, it's much worse than places like Mt.View, where they roust beggars who bother shoppers downtown with alacrity.

The unfortunates and social misfits who habituate the OC come from all over the bay area, and yet Palo Alto is stuck with the begging and crime and other problems that they bring along with a disproportionate share of the cost of operating and building the OC.

Now that the word is out about the handouts at the OC, and the lenient attitude of the PAPD toward agressive panhandling, we're getting an influx of "clients" at the same time funding for the OC is down.

This is an avoidable catastrophe in the making. The homeless who lack life skills and drug addled drunks who make up the majority of the OC clientel deserve our sympathy, but it does no good to attract them to an area with a high-tech economy with the highest living costs in the country. It may serve to salve the collective liberal do-gooder conscience around here, but it is a cruel trick to the targets of this largess.

Long term, we really need to think about moving the OC somewhere out of the urban/suburban SF-SJ area.

Posted by the watcher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 18, 2008 at 5:56 pm

What if a certain DD decided to make inquiries which would result in a story on how much the city spends and has spent on consultants and contractual workers currently and in the past. Rumor has it that some of these folk are former (retired employees) and friends of friends and relatives of working relatives. Is this not information the public should be aware of. It would be an eye-opener to find out just how much money goes out at the city tax payers expense. Hopefully if there is an inquiry into such, it will turn out to be just a rumor. The city does not need anymore negative fodder. Makes one wanna go hmmmmmmmmmmmm?

Posted by annoyed
a resident of another community
on Dec 18, 2008 at 7:43 pm

Why does everyone get on the City or giving bonuses? Private business does this and no one says anything. Many people who work for a city give up bigger salaries for public service and we need to throw them a bone to keep them.

As far as the OC goes.......

For all you NIMBY's, why would other cities put up with the filth and crime. They get to live in Palo Alto and have someone else pay for it. If you are so concerned, open up your house or pocketbook. Mine goes to provide for my famiies needs.

Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 18, 2008 at 9:47 pm


Private business does give bonuses, but they don't give guarenteed retirement benefits that amount to 75%- 90% of salary, nor do they give medical benefits. The risk of layoffs & getting fired in private business is much higher, especially when the sales don't meet expectations. When that happens in government, usually only the least experienced workers get cut, and the government also tries to raise taxes.

Posted by James
a resident of University South
on Dec 19, 2008 at 12:34 am

Close it, remodel it and turn it into condos or a hotel. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
Menlo Park, Mt. View and Sunnyvale don't have this problem. Why do we put up with it- because of a few bleeding hearts that's why. Well how about you bleeding hearts open up you home to these homeless?

Posted by the watcher
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 19, 2008 at 5:58 am

To James,
While some see the homeless turning downtown Palo Alto into a "smelly armpit." It may be the odor of those who have been homeless for a lengthy amount of time who's odor can lead the newby homeless to ways to cope and share ways on how to survive should our economy continue on the downslide. Should nature cause a natural and destructive disaster, some of these homeless people have a vast amount of knowledge on how to stay warm in the cold, conserve food and etc. Most of the homeless are not ignorant or ill educated, a lot of them have just lost hope.
We never know when of if our turn might come around to face the harsh realities of homelessness. The homeless people that receive such negative comments might very well be one of the ones you may have to share a space with in a community shelter with. Do you remember the song, "Walk a Mile in My Shoes?" Try looking up the lyrics. signed memories from a "Christmas Caroll."

Posted by LighterInThePocket
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 19, 2008 at 12:11 pm

I've often noticed the Opportunity Center when getting my car washed nearby, and assumed it was a homeless shelter, but now I know for sure.

I just donated $500 to InnVision online, here's the link if anyone wants to lighten their pockets for a good cause:

Posted by annoyed
a resident of another community
on Dec 19, 2008 at 1:21 pm

common sense......Government employees chose to serve before, during and after the dot com boom. I remember when private sector employees were getting rich when government employees were earning the same meager salary year after year. They chose to serve at the expense of their families and the lure of getting rich. Now that the boom is bust, people are quick to come down on those that chose security over possibilities. Yes, government salaries look big right now compared with today's issues in the job market, but they didn't look that way a few years ago. And the retirement benefits....small reward for what they face. And yes...even in Palo Alto.

You can choose the same path if you will run into a burning building to save someone's life or run into the path of a dangerous criminal instead of running away. Or work all night so others can sleep safe. Don't complain....join.

Posted by Patti
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 19, 2008 at 1:46 pm

"You can choose the same path if you will run into a burning building to save someone's life or run into the path of a dangerous criminal instead of running away. Or work all night so others can sleep safe. ..."

Of course you can also choose to sit at a desk as a "supervisor" with no one to supervise (as we have here in Palo Alto), while instead of working nights, you have Fridays off. You might also choose to work for Parks and Rec and spend afternoons sleeping in your truck behind the Tennis Courts at Rinconada Park (check it out sometime...I live in the area and they're there every day.)

And then you retire at 55 with 90% salary and full health benefits without any worries about the declining economy because even though the political appointees at CALPERS lost all the money that was supposed to pay for your ridiculous pension, all your benefits are guaranteed by the same taxpayers who have watched their 401k's fall in the same market.

Posted by Kathy
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 19, 2008 at 2:20 pm

After opening the OC, InnVision has not done enough fundraising locally. I'm sure the supporters of the construction would be happy to donate... if they received a request for funds.

Posted by a neighbor and state governement employee
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 19, 2008 at 2:30 pm

Am not sure when the big bonuses began in Palo Alto, but as a state employee, I can state that NO BONUSES are given at the state level, so why is this necessary at the city level of government? Do County employees receive bonuses? Do Federal Government employees receive bonuses? Not that I've heard, so who started the city bonus tradition?

What amazes me is that many of the city bonuses are given to employees already earning very large salaries, housing allowances of some kind and cars, and the bonuses are given just for doing their job. The big difference between business and public service? MY tax dollars pay your salary as a government employee. Yes, you should be paid a decent wage. No, you should not be paid bonuses; this should be reserved for the private sector (although questionable also given the abuses we've seen on Wall Street).

If an employee goes "above and beyond" and finds a way to save the city money, develops a new program of value, or makes a contribution that clearly, and significantly,demonstrates a "bonus-level contribution", then you promote the person to a higher salaried position that makes good use of their talents and commitment.

How can we challenge this practice?

Posted by Carol
a resident of University South
on Dec 19, 2008 at 3:09 pm

There are about 58,000 households in Palo Alto. If each contributed $8.62 the Opportunity Center and the ClaraMateo drop-in service center could continue to serve those of us without a place to call home. Those with more can give more and make this happen before our community looses these centers that are taking people from the streets and helping them become stable and able to move on with their lives.

I have talked with many people who are unhoused in Palo Alto and learned that they used to work here, grew up here, or have family connections here. It is true that some have behavioral health needs that are not being treated, and this is even more reason to have a place for them to connect to services. The Opportunity Center has a health clinic and psychiatric services on-site. Let's keep this important community resource going. One day it could be you, your employee or family member who needs the helping hand offered there.

I pledge to contribute to InnVision to help create a better future for our community and those in need.

Posted by concerned
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 19, 2008 at 3:20 pm

How many of us have visited or volunteered at the Oppertunity Center? Within the OC there isn't that much difference between the personal that provide the services, volunteers that serve the people and the people being served. All are just human folk functioning in community. I suggest that we do more than "critique" this financial situation. It will be exactly the same people who find fault with this service to our community who will yell the loudest when these veterians and families get too close to their street or supermarket! Thank you "lighterinthepocket!" I will do the same.

Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 19, 2008 at 6:59 pm


I searched for city of palo alto salary info, and I found this chart from 2006:

Web Link

2 years ago, there were 6 city staff that earned more than $200,000.
Another 306 earned between $100,000 - $200,000.

I don't consider these to be "meager" salaries. I don't know of any private sector jobs in Silicon Valley that pays retirement benefits of that these city staff will get. Given the life expectancy of 20 - 30 additional years, that is worth alot.

Posted by Tim
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 19, 2008 at 7:42 pm

The 306 that earn $100,000 to 200,000 are HOURLY employees. If they are doing the time, then they have every right to make that much. Get over it or go work for the city.

Posted by Outside Observer
a resident of another community
on Dec 19, 2008 at 8:34 pm

I'll get blisters on my fingers if I weigh in about CalPers, so just 2 quick points.

1st Pete Wilson robbed the system in the early 90's:

Web Link

2nd, during the boom years Palo Alto was not charged for their contribution to employees PERS retirements (yet the employees were). What did they do with the windfall? Did they invest it for the day when the economic up-cycle would end? No, they used it for more hiring in touchy-feely programs. There isn't a single pot hole in a Palo Alto street ever fixed by that mis-appropriation.

Now, we're in an economic downturn, and Palo Alto will have to increase it's contribution to PERS.... Oh, just wait for the Budget Hearings, and you'll hear them blaming everyone but themselves.

One thing that most Palo Altans don't know is that long time Palo Alto employees can't get social security or medicare. I don't know the specific "legals" on this, but I know it's true. (Maybe some one in the "legal" know can chime in on this) For the long time employees, it's either the retirement promises Palo Alto made for their long term career commitment 30+ years ago, or starvation and/or early death from no health care.

Posted by Ralph
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 19, 2008 at 10:42 pm

If there were a way to contribute attached to the article or email and it could be forwarded, lots of people would contribute. I will call and do so.

Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 19, 2008 at 10:44 pm


Many of the 306 employees who earn between $100,000 - $200,000 are professional or "managerial" staff - who are NOT hourly employees. A good number are also public safety (police, fire) personnel who work overtime, who are hourly employees.

It's not me who will have the problem of "getting over it"; it's going to be all of us who will find maintenance being deferred, infrastructure decaying, services being cut, and city staff facing potential cutbacks if costs aren't brought down.

Posted by Tim
a resident of College Terrace
on Dec 19, 2008 at 10:55 pm

First, most of those employees ARE hourly and most cities pay hourly overtime because it is cheaper than hiring and paying full benifits.
Second, I have live here for over 27 years and watch how this city has chased bussiness and our tax base out of the city. Who shops in Palo Alto any more? Very few and very sad.

Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 20, 2008 at 12:50 am

Read this article about SF homeless

Web Link

Posted by jardins
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Dec 20, 2008 at 8:13 pm

To the Weekly journalists: always put organizations' phone numbers or email addresses in your articles about needy members of our community, so that readers can make donations easily and immediately!

Posted by InnVision the Way Home
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 21, 2008 at 3:51 pm

In order to support the services currently provided at the Opportunity Center through InnVision the Way Home, go to to make a secure donation online. We thank the many donors who have responded to our fundraising appeals including those donors who gave so generously to the building of the center. This center is providing a necessary service to the homeless and the community at large...your support is greatly appreciated.

Posted by Wise Guy
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 22, 2008 at 5:50 am

If you're going to be homeless, why pick a boring city like Tracy or Hanford? Why not pick an urbane, upscale college town such as Palo Alto? The city is beautiful with many amenities, the quality of life is great and the high cost of housing doesn't bother you because you don't pay rent or make mortgage payments. The food from the many fine restaurants in town is almost as good when picked out of a dumpster as when served by a waiter. There are plenty of prosperous people to panhandle from. You get handouts from the OC, and the PAPD largely leave you alone. Well-to-do Silicon Valley types choose Palo Alto for its quality of life, why not the homeless?

That's the sarcastic view.

Posted by edgarpoet
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 31, 2011 at 1:47 pm

edgarpoet is a registered user.

Who is to blame for this failed "experiment" we call opportunity center. This is simply a pit owned and opperated by vipers that I will call " the poverty pimps". These vipers who pretend to be doing something positive for those less fortunates are actually perpetuating their problems to line their own pockets with fat paychecks.
This type of social experiment is a really sad reality for our
progressive society. We have failed to steer the ship to the port.
the ship has crashed on the rocks and is taking on water!
Don't beg me for a band-aid, lower the life boats!
stop throwing money down the toilet to support these poverty pimps.
Its the responsibility of the church to reach out to and care for the down trodden. Government has never been successful at social programs and never will be. Grants are wasted expenditures because
the CEO's that are hired have never been there and done that!
I say "close this trap down" and those street tramps will go elsewhere, I assure you! All you who feel guilty because you got riches, create more jobs for people that really want to improve their lives, don't give hand outs to the poverty pimps, PLEASE!

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