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 James for this fine suggestion. Yes--our Palo Alto City Council has a great opportunity to get out ahead of this issue for the first time since August 2013 when they passed the draconian and destructive Vehicle Habitation Ban.

Imagine-- using sleep deprivation so some folks won't have so many homeless people around to bother their consciences!

Where did they want us to sleep if they took away our cars-- on their lawns? In front of City Hall?

I don't think they thought about it--- or maybe they thought that another anti-homeless ordinance would drive us all out of town???

Whatever they were thinking was stinking thinking.

The answer to homelessness can never be subtracting resources from the equation. We shelter-challenged folks already are suffering from pretty severe lacks of resources. We can't afford to pay rent. How does anyone figure that taking away our shelter/storage/transportation resources (our vehicles) will in any way help anybody or any thing?

So yes--as free-speech-and-Constitutionally-guaranteed-rights-advocate Mr. James suggests. It would be a further feather in Palo Alto's cap--and very redemptive and restorative as well--for Palo Alto to declare that the Post Office on Hamilton Street was going to be turned into a shelter for Palo Altans who've helped build and serve this community and now can't afford to live here.

This--most unfortunately-- is a group that is growing and will be further fueled by the ever-rising rents.and soaring property values of this very desirable City. Too bad the middle class who built it in many cases can no longer afford to live here.

Most of the people who live here couldn't afford to move here now.

The supply of affordable housing has not kept pace with the burgeoning need. It's only a matter of time till there is only the 1% class left in Palo Alto. Those who bought houses decades ago will soon be priced out by the pricey cost of living here and have to move away or move into even more crowded housing.

Palo Alto can do something to abate this draining of the middle class. The working poor have already been priced out. That's who we are-- the former middle class and now the working poor class. We work but make less and can't afford to pay rent. So we live in cars; in shelters; on the ground; and on the Hotel 22.

And if Santa Clara County AND Palo Alto and the other cities don't get busy-- you know-- like they would if it were THEIR shelter at risk--if we all don't get busy on this in time for November--even more of us will die than the six who died in Santa Clara County in the cold of December 2013.

Chuck Jagoda--Homeless Advocate and Sunnyvale Armory Shelter Resident 2010--2013.

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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