Mountain View Voice

Opinion - December 18, 2009

Like it or not, you still have a homeless problem

by Ronald Jones

I was sorry to learn, from the article about 86-year-old homeless resident Jess Santana, that David Mace, a former colleague, Los Altos resident, police officer and Mountain View businessman, had become homeless ("Homeless man on a mission," Dec. 4).

I am a former Mountain View resident (Middlefield/Moffett Boulevard area) and longtime employee, and a retired employee of the city of Los Altos. As such I find myself compelled to reply to the blissful ignorance of "Sean," who posted on the Voice's Town Square on Dec. 5, regarding his knowledge of the homeless.

Sean quoted the story, "Mountain View and Los Altos do not have shelters for the homeless," and responded, "That's a good thing! We also do not have a homeless problem." You most certainly do have a homeless problem. And it is not the form of problem to which you are inferring; the problem is that people are homeless.

I don't know what the numbers are today, but in the late 1980s and early 1990s there were a solid 15 or so homeless persons living on the streets and parking lots in Los Altos night to night. That number varied some on any given night, depending on which side of El Camino Real they chose to camp. Most of these unfortunate people were "working" homeless people — living, like Mr. Santana, in their vehicles and doing the best they could with what they had.

I had knowledge of and supported the rotating, church-based shelter that moved from church to church every 28 days back then. To the best of my knowledge there were no undesirable incidents or negative impacts on the neighborhoods surrounding these temporary "church shelters." These people were not busying themselves committing crimes; they busied themselves with efforts to survive while they worked to bring back some sense of a normal life, and for the most part they were invisible by day.

The criminals are out there, but that does not mean that the homeless are criminals. Congratulations to Mr. Jess Santana for his personal survival and his efforts on behalf of local homeless residents.

The fact is, Sean, that the lack of a homeless shelter does not reduce the presence of homeless persons in an area. The fact is that most of the homeless in an area are there because that is where they lived when they had a home and, like you, they feel safe there.

Like many of us, Sean may be but one paycheck away from homelessness. If you continue to bury your head in the sand, the only thing left exposed is your butt.

Ronald Jones served in the Los Altos Police Department for 30 years, retiring as chief of police in 1991. He currently lives in Rio Vista, where he serves as vice mayor of that city.


Posted by Bill, a resident of Waverly Park
on Dec 23, 2009 at 5:17 pm

Re the homeless: Palo Alto loves them. Just give them a one-way ticket to PA.

Posted by Old Ben, a resident of Shoreline West
on Dec 24, 2009 at 12:38 pm

Those words could come 'round to bite you, Bill. If you liked 2009, you are going to LOVE 2010. Kudos to those who help the poor and downtrodden. They are America's true heroes in this very dark time.

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