Should Palo Alto Build a New Shelter for the Homeless?

Palo Alto resident and civil rights advocate Aram James contends that given the closing of the Sunnyvale Armory, the time is right for Palo Alto to become a leader in the housing first model.

(Palo Alto also went through a controversial city council vote to ban people from sleeping in vehicles.)

On April 15, 2014 our progressive Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, led by our own Joe Simitian, and fellow board member Dave Cortese, voted 5-0 to begin the search for a new temporary homeless shelter, to replace the Sunnyvale Armory and the beds there that were set aside for members of the unhoused community during the winter months.
This search has become necessary now that the Sunnyvale Armory will be demolished for the construction of low income housing.
The majority of our not so progressive city council members here in Palo Alto, led by ultra-reactionary and anti-homeless council members Liz Kniss, Larry Klein, Greg Scharff and Mayor Nancy Shephard, should consider a political shift towards being the leader in the housing-first model. This solution-base framework, is now recognized as being highly effective in mitigating the collateral issues often exacerbated by homelessness including mental illness, drug addiction, multiple contacts with emergency medical services and excessive contacts with the criminal justice system -- all of which have proven to be substantially reduced when the formerly unhoused are provided decent housing.

The Palo Alto City Council should request that Santa Clara County assist Palo Alto in becoming the home to a new year round, state of the art, homeless shelter.

Since we know that Palo Alto has the resources for such a shelter, the only question left is do we have the necessary political will to make such a shelter happen?

About Aram James

Aram James is a former public defender and is a co-founder of the Albert Cobarrubias Justice Project.

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Thank you Aram for this timely reminder. Now that the Palo Alto City Council has begun the redemption of the moral reputation of Palo Alto by rescinding the Vehicle Habitation Ordinance-- let them continue their moral arc and at the very least open up the garages for homeless overnight parking. Santa Barbara has a Safe Parking Program and the city didn't collapse.

Worrying about being too kind to the poor is not how any of us was brought up.

It's very embarrassing for residents who value their consciences and immortal souls -- instead of just their property values -- to live in a City that not only eschews rent stabilization and rent controls but actively moves to discourage homeless residency rather than respond to a need that is obvious and from which the rich profit.

The City Council -- even those of the recent City Council who had the moral blinders on and passed the onerous and draconian Vehicle Habitation Ban-- have seen some light. It would be only MORE enlightened for the new City Council to reverse the downward trend of the last last few decades and PROVIDE for homeless people rather than trying to make Palo Alto a scorched earth no one will want to live in.

Open the bathrooms in parks. BUILD bathrooms in parks built without them--- as if people don't need bathrooms when they go to the park! Re-open Cubberley to homeless use. Be PROUD it's a de facto homeless shelter!

Use the empty floors of museums and the Hamilton Avenue Post Office. Lobby the County to use Yazuka Airfield. Stop hogging everything for the selfish rich. Let the working poor and middle class-- what there is of it left-- breathe and sleep and thrive

Many who live in Palo Alto want the City to serve all-- not just the rich. The resources are not just for the wealthy who are used to being able to bribe the City Council. They are resources of ALL the citizens.

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