Re: H*lp, Not Handcuffs, for Homeless in Palo Alto, CA FWD

Judy Olsen (
Mon, 08 Mar 1999 19:05:49 -0800

This is great!  I'm saving it future use.  Thanks.
Judy O

Tom Boland wrote:

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> FWD  San Francisco Chronicle  February 15, 1999  Page A13
> Carolyne Zinko, Chronicle Staff Writer
> Palo Alto's new police chief has made dealing with homeless people a top
> priority -- and unlike his predecessor, it's not all about arresting them.
> In the seven months since Pat Dwyer has been on the job, the police
> department has done a turnaround from the get-tough approach that emerged
> toward the end of former Chief Chris Durkin's tenure.
> Instead of focusing solely on citing the homeless for bad behavior, police
> have been given new marching orders. A two-page memorandum drafted by the
> chief calls for treating the homeless with more respect and helping them
> solve their problems.
> He has authorized a luggage cart exchange for any homeless person caught
> toting his or her possessions in a stolen grocery cart.
> He recently ordered the suspension of a program in which the mug shots of
> habitual drunks were posted in liquor stores to deter selling alcohol to
> them, because of concerns the program might be unconstitutional.
> As a further sign of his commitment, Dwyer is working on a $75,000 grant
> proposal for a new program for Palo Alto police -- an outreach team made up
> of officers, a nurse and a county mental health worker that would go out on
> the streets, searching for homeless people.
> The team will help the poor and needy assess their problems, get referrals
> to medical or mental health programs, and even give them a ride there if
> they need one, Dwyer said.
> No funding has been secured for the program.
> ``It's not against the law to be poor, homeless and have dirty clothes
> on,'' Dwyer said last week.
> His eight-point policy guideline notes in part that ``whenever possible, we
> will address problems associated with our homeless population by providing
> referrals to appropriate agencies and services.''
> It also notes that ``it will remain the policy of our department to
> scrupulously respect the rights and dignity of all people in our city,
> regardless of social status.''
> Advocates for the homeless applaud what they see as a shift in attitude.
> In 1997, the Palo Alto City Council banned sitting and lying on portions of
> upscale University Avenue, saying it was necessary for pedestrian safety.
> Homeless people cried foul, saying Palo Alto merely wanted to remove
> homeless people from public view.
> The council also directed police to get tougher on bad behavior downtown by
> stepping up patrols to cut down on public drinking, urinating on the
> streets and the like.
> The council recently voted to study a ban on panhandling from sidewalk and
> median strips, citing pedestrian and motorist safety concerns.
> Wynn Hauser, chair of the city's Human Rights Commission, called the
> chief's outreach proposal ``terrific.''
> ``It gives a whole different tenor to ways the city has approached the
> issue of homelessness. It's exactly right, focusing on prevention rather
> than just sweeping people out of the way,'' Hauser said. ``The city's
> response in the past has been one without the other -- the stick without
> the carrot.''
> At the Urban Ministry, the largest service organization for the poor in
> town, the Rev. Donna Smith-Power praised the new program.
> ``My hope is that it will help decriminalize the homeless,'' she said.
> She said it would be important for the team to work at night as well as
> during the day.
> ``There are a lot of people who don't come out during the day,'' she noted.
> But reaction was different from the homeless themselves, who say the city
> is still missing the boat.
> ``The best thing they could do is give us a place to shower,'' said Philip
> Crusch, 49, a former housepainter who has been homeless for four years.
> Crusch was pushing two shopping carts full of bottles to a recycling center
> near the Lucky grocery store in south Palo Alto on Friday.
> He said a nurse or a social worker would be of little value to him, since
> he is a veteran and goes to the Veteran's Affairs Hospital in Menlo Park or
> Palo Alto when he is ill.
> Another homeless man, who identified himself only as Roger, a 30-year-old
> who said he has worked as a carpenter, scoffed at the idea of an outreach
> team.
> ``I haven't seen anything to help us -- nothing but running us off and
> making us feel like we're yea tall,'' he said, motioning toward his knees.
> ``A nurse and a social worker? That's to make themselves feel better. What
> we need is a place to shower, wash our clothes, look for work and get a
> callback.''