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Despite harassment allegations, Downtown Streets Team to receive Palo Alto funding

Original post made on May 7, 2020

The Downtown Streets Team, a nonprofit that is facing multiple allegations of sexual harassment and a hard-partying culture, is poised to receive its full allotment of grant funding from Palo Alto, with no strings attached.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, May 6, 2020, 6:25 PM

Comments (29)

Posted by Bob
a resident of College Terrace
on May 7, 2020 at 12:03 am

How about doing a story on how much money Downtown Streets Team takes in every year and how that money is distributed. How much goes to Eileen Richardson and to her son Chris. How much goes to other staff members and how much goes to the homeless. It's my understanding that the teams pick up trash under the guise of being volunteers and compensated for their work with debit/food cards at an amount that equates to earning less than minimum wage. Why are there so many homeless people living in their RVs and cars on El Camino if DST has been so successful over the last decade or so? Something to consider.

Bob RV dweller on El Camino


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 7, 2020 at 12:34 am

Always good to see the city spending $330,000+ without asking for more information from an organization under a cloud about how they're going to fix their multiple problems while telling residents, small businesses and other non-profits to cut back.

Tell us again about the $40,000.000 budget shortfall and the need for the rest of us to tighten our belts and while our poor small businesses have to submit to a lottery to get a measly $10,000.


Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 7, 2020 at 9:06 am

>> will receive its full allotment of grant funding from Palo Alto without having to offer documentation that it has addressed these problems

Shameful for the city to hand over this grant. This organization has demonstrated great irresponsibility. They have private donors-- the city should pull the plug completely and let the private donors fill in. Oh, and those private donors should police Downtown Streets Team and make sure that its sobriety programs don't include "team building" exercises that include drinking alcoholic beverages. (Stupidist damn thing ever... )


Posted by Independent
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on May 7, 2020 at 10:45 am

[Post removed.]


Posted by What Will They Do Next
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 7, 2020 at 11:15 am

Unbelievable.....if an executive in the private sector green lighted something like this they would be fired.


Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 7, 2020 at 11:58 am

It sounds like we need to investigate this further...it’s gone far enough. lol! Sorry for the unintended oxymoron. I mean the allegations. Does DST operate like a frat house. Are drunks in offices taking care of drunks on the streets? We have other food closets in the area. Let’s support them first. From the devastation of downtown businesses, and very little activity there now, I’m not sure the services of the DST are even needed currently.


Posted by ThankYou
a resident of College Terrace
on May 7, 2020 at 1:23 pm

Than you City for getting these funds out!!! Our homeless unsheltered are in crisis and any amount helps the burden of an untenable situation. We have to do our part to mitigate the spread of C-19. Now we need designated building to house Palo Alto unsheltered vulnerable people .


Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on May 7, 2020 at 2:25 pm

I trust Owen Byrd and Ed Shikada


Posted by Carol Hubenthal
a resident of University South
on May 7, 2020 at 3:22 pm

Palo Alto is not the only Bay area city that continues to support this unique organization. The Streets Team has a unique program that genuinely engages and supports the homeless...helping many out of homelessness permanently. We should be proud to support this non-profit which began in Palo Alto and has grown to cities from Santa Cruz to Sacramento. It has won "Best Non-Profit to work for" for several years. So apparently any earlier problems have been more than dealt with. We need this group now more than ever.


Posted by Disappointed Neighbor
a resident of Midtown
on May 7, 2020 at 4:53 pm

Have any of you commenting ever stopped and talked to one of the volunteers you see picking up trash? I have. Have any of you talked to any of staff working for them? I have. Why don't you take the time and talk one of them next time. Ask them what this non profit has done for them and add that to the opinions you have created. This non-profit is supported by a number of other counties in the Bay Area and beyond. The work they do is needed and makes a difference in peoples lives. It's a shame to see some neighbors wiling to come down on this nonprofit that started here in Palo Alto, without having any facts. Keep up the good work Downtown Streets Team!


Posted by TimR
a resident of Downtown North
on May 7, 2020 at 5:00 pm

Isn't the DTST funded by businesses paying "protection money" every month? I seem to recall Cal at the old Fran's Market telling me it was $100 a month, and no, they couldn't clean up out front themselves, making it basically a shakedown. But maybe things have changed. This was at the very beginning of the program.


Posted by anon
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 7, 2020 at 5:07 pm

Many of you don't know where the money the committees vote on comes from and it shows. It's laughable to compare this specific grant funding to business loans and bail outs.


Go google Community Development Block Grant and read what applies.

Unemployment numbers have soared due to COVID and what does the streets team do? HELP FIND JOBS AND HOUSING FOR THE HOMELESS!


Posted by Transparency please
a resident of College Terrace
on May 7, 2020 at 5:15 pm

Why would this be about trust, rather than transparency? Sorry but neither Owen nor Ed is elected. We should hear directly from Fine.


Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on May 7, 2020 at 9:44 pm

Your name is “Transparency Please”?


Posted by PST
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 8, 2020 at 9:06 am

I am very disappointed in the Weekly for their choice of headline and lead in to the story which would be better suited for the National Inquirer or some other muckraking rag.. The matter has been thoroughly investigated by a top notch outside law firm and resolved to the Boards satisfaction. The people who made the complaint did not seek a fair investigation and hearing but wanted to play “jury” as well and were not happy with the result so have tried to keep an old resolved story alive. The Weekly should show better judgement going forward.


Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 8, 2020 at 3:44 pm

Posted by PST, a resident of South of Midtown

>> The matter has been thoroughly investigated by a top notch outside law firm and resolved to the Boards satisfaction. The people who made the complaint did not seek a fair investigation and hearing

So, are you saying that the drinking culture as described by multiple witnesses here did not exist?

Web Link

"The Board" could be satisfied for a lot of reasons. I would like to know if DST staff events still include drinking, and, if so, why, given the previous behavior, given "details of those incidents corroborated through documentation and multiple witnesses." In my opinion, it is inappropriate for an organization like DST, which is there to help (among other people) homeless alcoholics, to incorporate alcohol into its internal staff social events (team building, celebrations, etc.). I don't see that it makes sense for DST to receive public funds given this. It should find private donors.


Posted by Elaine Wood
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 8, 2020 at 4:05 pm

Full disclosure: I have the honor of serving on the board of DST and the unique position of having joined AFTER the allegations were made and investigated. As a result, I am familiar with the process and timing of the board's response and investigation without having been a participant. I can say I am impressed by the thorough, serious, and timely process they pursued, including the resulting improvements to organization structure, procedures, and culture.

But what's important now? It is getting support and resources to our vulnerable, unhoused neighbors in this unprecedented time. DST is caring and diligent and delivers unique opportunity and care to its Team Members, while building legitimate personal relationships with those dealing with overwhelming challenges. I applaud the City for keeping it's eye on the ball and funding critical support to our unhoused neighbors.


Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on May 8, 2020 at 4:52 pm

@Elaine
Thanks for your thoughtful comments and for stepping up to join the DST board. I have long valued the role filled by the DST, but the recent issues have made me concerned.
In the article, Owen Byrd was quoted as describing the problems as being a “kerfuffle”. Do you agree with that characterization?


Posted by Chuck Jagoda
a resident of Barron Park
on May 8, 2020 at 6:08 pm

To the first several comments that have complaints, criticism, and negative attitudes toward the Downtown Streets Team and questions about the worth of the work they do: What did you have in mind to replace them? Were YOU going to meet, greet, and help those who have no homes? Do you feel that's not you with a yellow shirt picking up trash? Do you feel you'd never let yourself get in that position? If you were homeless, you'd be darned thankful for the family and "new home" many of us found at DST.
One of the common threads in most homeless stories is lack of supportive family. It may not be obvious but this is a very powerful dynamic-- for good or ill. It also may not be very obvious but the DST delivers more, much more than other "service" orgs and helps rebuild self confidence and hope and provides jobs, housing, and skills. They also send people to school, buy work tools, and help you with your unemployment forms even if you're a graduate.
Take a suggestion of the commenter who suggests talking to someone on the Streets Team. People have traveled from Gilroy to pick up a bucket and broom, follow us around, and learn what the DST is like first hand. It might be educational for you to lend a hand, also.


Posted by PST
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 8, 2020 at 7:03 pm

To Anon. I have no idea about the culture at DST several years ago. I made my point. I respect the investigation and the Board. Corrective and remedial action was taken. As far as I know there have been no further complaints for several years of this nature. I have nothing but gratitude and appreciation for the organization. And know they provide vital service in many communities. I am ready to move on. I cannot help if you are not. By the way, if you look into it, DST does get donations from multiple sources in addition to the city. I suspect they could use more.


Posted by Shirley Reiter
a resident of Downtown North
on May 9, 2020 at 3:56 pm

Re Gale Johnson's remark about other food pantries in the area. Since the lockdown, the Downtown Food Closet at Hamilton is the only one operating from Monday to Friday since then and has been handing out groceries to many, many hungry families. They have been lining outside the door and waiting their turn patiently while the Downtown Streets Team try their best to serve everybody. The South Palo Alto Food Closet is only distributing boxes by appointment; The Ecumenical Hunger program is serving on a limited basis. We are open from 10 to 2:30, no questions asked and to 6:30 on Thursday. We welcome a visit from you to see how and why DST needs the funds. They "pay" their workers with gift cards from local merchants. The community volunteers, such as I, have been furloughed due to our age. Without DST, the food pantry would not have been able to operate. Please walk in somebody's shoes before criticizing. Thank you.


Posted by Neighborhood Beautification
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 11, 2020 at 9:40 am

I would like to see the program expanded to residential neighborhoods as well...then I could fire my gardener.

Give them rakes & receptacles to haul away the debris...especially during the winter season.

No more need for leaf blowers & PA residents could even chip-in a few bucks to the program...say $10-$20 a month as most could afford to do so.

Pay the homeless workers in CASH as well...then we might have even more signing-up to keep our city well kept!


Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 11, 2020 at 4:27 pm

@Elaine Wood and PST

I'm disappointed that you didn't address either of my two points.

1) Given the history, and, the mission, DST needs to provide public assurances and proof and DST management/team events do not allow intoxicants.

2) Taxpayer funding requires extra care handling. You don't need to be a Prohibitionist to understand why it was inappropriate and stupid to serve alcohol at events for an organization whose mission includes homeless alcohol abusers. If alcohol is "necessary" at such events, somebody is in "denial".

DST should secure private funding for this program.


Posted by PST
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 17, 2020 at 7:38 pm

To Anon
Point 1
I do not think founders should dictate organizational policy to that degree and certainly not selectively with only one place.

Point 2

Not sure if you understand the recovery journey completely. It mayb or may not require never being in the presence of alcohol. Depending upon circumstances.

Not only were the allegations investigated and unsubstantiated, it was several years ago and as far as I know there have not been similar concerns raised again. Time to let go and move on seems to me. Sorry you are having a hard time doing that.


Posted by PST
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 17, 2020 at 7:39 pm

Correction. Founders not founders


Posted by PST
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 17, 2020 at 7:40 pm

Curse auto correct. Funders


Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 17, 2020 at 11:00 pm

^ What people say when their self-driving car goes over the cliff.


Posted by Neighborhood Beautification
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on May 18, 2020 at 9:35 am

QUOTE: "Are drunks in offices taking care of drunks on the streets?"

^^^ A good point Ms. Johnson...apparently not.

If the allegations are true, there is definitely some irresponsibility & hypocrisy taking place within the administrative sector.

On the other hand and getting back to my residential maintenance suggestion...there have been times when I have 'rewarded' various individuals (i.e. plumbers, painters, remodelers etc.) working at my house for a job well done with beer & I might consider doing the same if this program was extended to PA residential areas.

After all, the DTS street workers are the one doing the ACTUAL WORK.


Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 18, 2020 at 7:36 pm

Posted by Neighborhood Beautification, a resident of Adobe-Meadow

>> On the other hand and getting back to my residential maintenance suggestion...there have been times when I have 'rewarded' various individuals (i.e. plumbers, painters, remodelers etc.) working at my house for a job well done with beer & I might consider doing the same if this program was extended to PA residential areas.

>> After all, the DTS street workers are the one doing the ACTUAL WORK.

If I wanted to give some people doing ACTUAL WORK a lagniappe, I would buy them lunch, or, give them some extra cash, rather than beer. If they want beer, they can buy it, or, they might choose to buy groceries for their families.


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