News

Car-dwelling homeless inspire church copycats

Parking lot camp-out meant to highlight problems facing the homeless

Their apartment was just a short drive away, but on Friday evening Steve and Teresa Peters decided not to go home. The husband and wife -- both engineers -- packed their two daughters, 3-year-old Elena, and 16-month-old Evelyn, in the family SUV and they headed to the parking lot of St. Timothy's Episcopal Church in Mountain View. That's where, to get a feeling for what the city's homeless face, they were going to spend the night.

That March 4 evening, they weren't alone. Inspired by the recent rise in people living out of their cars on Mountain View's streets, about a dozen members of the St. Timothy's congregation were undertaking a sort of weekend-long vow of poverty. They were going to experience firsthand what it felt like to live on the street.

Steve Peters, who came up with the idea, said he hoped to instill a little bit of goodwill toward the city's growing number of car campers. He pointed to the lack of areas where people could live in their cars as a sign that many viewed the poor only as a nuisance.

It was simplistic for them to spend one night in their car when his family could return home anytime, Peters admitted. But nonetheless, he felt the exercise might show them some of the hardships the homeless face. Plus it was Lent, so he needed to give up something.

"At a minimum, I thought we should try it ourselves," he said. "I was hoping we might promote a little more empathy in the community."

"We could call what we're doing 'YIMBY' -- yes in my backyard," his wife added.

Just before bedtime on that stormy Friday, the dozen or so participants sat in circle in the church hall for a brief meeting. Visiting the group, Pastor Brian Leong of Lord Grace Christian Church explained his efforts to better network Peninsula churches to address the growing homeless population. In an idea he pitched to city leaders earlier this month, local congregations could arrange for people living out of their cars to stay in the church parking lots. That way, they would at least have bathrooms, garbage service and perhaps a little more security, he said.

"I could get four churches almost immediately to go along with this," Leong said. "We want to work together and pool our resources to see if can have an impact on this."

For now, Leong said he is waiting to see if the city is willing cover a church's basic liability costs.

The group sang a hymn, discussed what they were doing, and the church's deacon read a Bible verse, Matthew 25:40, urging followers to treat the least of their brethren as they would their savior. Then the group broke and retired to their cars for the night.

The Peters family removed the backseat of their Chevy Trailblazer to create just enough room for the four of them to squeeze in together under a pile of blankets. With the car's interior lights on, the Peters read their girls a bedtime story. Just as the rain started, they decided to call it a night.

"I just hope I don't get a crick in my neck," Peters said as he closed the rear hatch.

It turned out to be a wet night -- both outside and in the car. Condensation accumulated overnight, and the Peters family woke up to find their car was pretty moist inside. It felt like camping, Peters said the next morning -- not as comfortable as home but not bad for one-night.

Meeting the next morning for coffee in the church, they learned that one of the families camping left their headlights on overnight, and they now needed a jump-start. But otherwise, it was a success, and it got them thinking about how a larger outreach program to the homeless could work, he said.

"It definitely taught us some of the specific things and logistical challenges of doing this," he said. "It was a starting point."

Comments

32 people like this
Posted by Old Mountain Viewans
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 10, 2016 at 2:31 pm

I applaud all of you for doing that. The homeless are treated as a nuisance, out of sight out of mind, not my problem. These people and their families are hard working who had their apartments or homes but just can not afford the sky rocketing rents. I am so sick of hearing "in high demand housing" when we are talking about human beings who have lived here a long time and now can't live anywhere thanks to the greed of landlords. All of this thanks to Google being in our back yard and City Council just being greedy themselves and their solution is the development of expensive high rises which only cater to the more than above medium income and higher. Yeah that's City Council taking care of nothing.


22 people like this
Posted by Le Dude
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 10, 2016 at 2:44 pm

I would not mind paying more in taxes to help the poor. What I can't stand is the city granting all those in-lieu-of waivers to developers (in lieu of parks, in lieu of parking, in lieu of higher low-income housing rentals) to get more cash for the city's coffers to funds their pensions and buy the police the latest hi-tech gear.


24 people like this
Posted by Neighbors Helping Neighbors
a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2016 at 2:53 pm

Bravo!! St Timothy Church members and one night car campers.

Neighbors Helping Neighbors (NHN) knows very well the needs and survival skills MV residents and those from nearby cities who are forced into this lifestyle, must develop. It's a hard learning curve for most.

I would like to share with you that it is not mostly your low income neighbors
who are being forced to live in their vehicles. Poverty is not synonymous with those who now have to car camp. Of NHN who are displaced most of them are employed, a large number are college educated with advanced degrees and are generally smart & resourceful people. In the current, housing crisis, anyone can fall victim to being displaced.
NHN has 900+ clients who are vehicle dwellers (Palo Alto-MV).

· A significant number of vehicle dwellers have respiratory illnesses.

· Of the 900+ vehicle dwellers currently enrolled in NHN Programs:
~~ 120 are seniors and, of these people, 55 are over age 80
~~ Most have chronic, severe illnesses
~~ 500 are middle aged
~~ 150 are families with school-age children.
~~ 130 are youth to adults (younger than middle aged)

95% reside in Palo Alto and Mountain View. 80% are middle income ($30K- $160K). All deserve a warm, safe place to stay.

Incidentally, as rents continue to rise, you will see more and more of your neighbors of all incomes being forced into living in their vehicles.

NHN Board of Directors, volunteers and clients (both housed & displaced) applaud you!
Thank you so much for doing this excercise.
Caryll-Lynn Taylor
Exec. Director & Food Programs Chair
NeighborsHelpingNeighbors2013@gmail.com
Phone: 650-283-0270 (No Texting, please)
P.O. BOX 113
Palo Alto, CA 94302
FACEBOOK: Web Link


39 people like this
Posted by mvresident2003
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 10, 2016 at 3:37 pm

mvresident2003 is a registered user.

WHY do they insist on staying somewhere that is obviously out of their budget? There are PLENTY of less expensive areas to live and many not that far from here.

I'm tired of this discussion, if you can't afford to be here then make a common sense albeit tough decision, be responsible and get yourself somewhere you can afford. I'd rather use funds to help relocate than encourage them to live in an area that they will constantly struggle, this is just ridiculous.


19 people like this
Posted by @Monta Loma Resident
a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2016 at 3:46 pm

How thoughtful of you. So when long-time residents get priced out of Mountain View, the only advice you can offer is "go somewhere else"?

Do us a favor: Go back to where you came from. Mountain View will be better off for it.


18 people like this
Posted by Groucho
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 10, 2016 at 3:52 pm

The fact is, they are a nuisance. And a public health and sanitation issue. I don't know what the solution is, but the current situation is not acceptable. I do feel that it is government's responsibility to take care of these people and that they are obligated to accept such solutions.


20 people like this
Posted by @mvresident2003
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Mar 10, 2016 at 3:52 pm

Maybe you should read a little more about this to get more understanding and empathy.

Where would you like them to move to? Should they quit their job in order to move? How many vehicles do they own? Can one of the vehicles make the now-long commute? Do they have other one so the other parent can get to work and/or get kids to school, to dr appts, etc. etc.

It is certainly not as easy as you put it.


25 people like this
Posted by mvresident2003
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 10, 2016 at 4:06 pm

mvresident2003 is a registered user.

Harsh isn't it? But yes, I have always said I will be leaving when I reach retirement. I'll have been a "long time resident" however there's also no way I'll be able to afford to live here and I know I will have to leave. It will be awful. I love it here. But life is about choices and smart ones are often the hard ones.


23 people like this
Posted by Bill
a resident of Willowgate
on Mar 10, 2016 at 4:07 pm

Someone please tell me who is going to work in the jobs that pay very little? I'm thinking restaurant staff, retail store workers, gardeners, plumbers, gas station attendants, automobile mechanics, Costco staff, barbers, stylists, the list is long. Where should all the people who cannot afford to live here move to? Gilroy? Santa Rosa? Tracy? The longer the commute, the less sense it makes for someone to drive here to earn minimum wage.


16 people like this
Posted by Neighbors Helping Neighbors
a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2016 at 4:13 pm

@ mvresident2003
WHY do they insist on staying somewhere that is obviously out of their budget? There are PLENTY of less expensive areas to live and many not that far from here.

I am glad you asked this question. There are multiple answers.
1. Their job is here.
2. No, they simply do not have the funds to relocate.
3. Elderly parents are here and need to be cared for.
4. Some are enrolled in school. Rick of loosing tuition.
NHN has had many clients who have moved out of the area. Within 6 mos to 12 mos they are in the same or worse circumstances. Plus, the main problem most encounter, the rents in the community they have relocated are rising at the same rate or just enough to keep their household "financially overburdened". Then ultimately, significant number of them fail.

For those who commute, there are significant challenges, stress creates illness, job loss and broken families.

Yes, there are some good solutions, lower the rents, adopt "just clause ordinances with 90 day requirement", rental assistance that includes middle income and does not have a one time only requirement, tenant relocation ordinances that includes less than 4 units, "right to lease" that does not include 6 month component, better and more education about Landlord Tenant Right's & Responsibilities, etc.

Right now, there is a great need for transitional housing and emergency motel stays plus, more programs to include middle income households.

Please contact NHN for more details or conversation.
Contact info above.



32 people like this
Posted by mvresident2003
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 10, 2016 at 4:15 pm

mvresident2003 is a registered user.

so what are you saying then, anyone should be able to live here just because they want to? Again, ridiculous.

I am not empathetic. I give tremendously to this community in many ways. I donate to causes, I serve at food shelters, I help tutor reading to struggling students at the jr high and my kids don't even go there!

Choices people. I'm not opposed to helping others if it's in the vein of good choices. But insisting people have a right to live in what is now
One of the most desirable and expensive areas of the world isn't common sense.


9 people like this
Posted by @Monta Loma Resident
a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2016 at 4:25 pm

"hoices people. I'm not opposed to helping others if it's in the vein of good choices. But insisting people have a right to live in what is now
One of the most desirable and expensive areas of the world isn't common sense."

And guess how it got that way? People like you, driving up real estate prices to the point where they have no basis in reality.

For all of your bragging about doing good deeds, you're part of the problem.


34 people like this
Posted by Bonnie
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 10, 2016 at 4:42 pm

Teachers who teach here should be able to live here. Nurses who work here should be able to live here. People who had their savings decimated by medical expenses and are dealing with current major medical crises should be able to live here. It's easy to tell other people what they should do until it happens to someone you care about. Don't be so sure you or your children or your parents aren't next. There are hundreds of stories of people who were so sure... Until they weren't.


31 people like this
Posted by mvresident2003
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 10, 2016 at 5:05 pm

mvresident2003 is a registered user.

Really? Teachers and nurses? What about landscape maintenance guys. And maids? Shouldn't they be able to as well, or does this only apply to professionals?

See how ridiculous this is? Since when does anybody have a RIGHT to live in a specific city?


16 people like this
Posted by Varsity Resident
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Mar 10, 2016 at 5:14 pm

How sensitive of the MV Voice to let an ad for houses in MV starting at $1.4M to be placed next to this article and discussion. #disgusted


8 people like this
Posted by @Monta Loma Resident
a resident of another community
on Mar 10, 2016 at 5:14 pm

"Since when does anybody have a RIGHT to live in a specific city?"

One could ask the same of you.


28 people like this
Posted by Old Steve
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 10, 2016 at 5:27 pm

@mvresident2003

Teachers who live nearby have more time for students. Teachers with long commutes are much more likely to "work to rule". Police Officers, Nurses, Firefighters, Public Works Crews -- If they all have to live in Tracy, who is coming to help you in the next flood or earthquake? Those who are at home will volunteer there. Those who live here will be able to get to work. Join Mtn View CERT and you will learn that even now, we prepare for 3 days "on our own". Do you really want that wait for assistance to get longer as housing becomes prohibitive on a public salary? Your choice.


5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 10, 2016 at 8:19 pm

Of course nobody has a right to live here, but on the flip side, we should help displaced people and address the issues which displace them. On the peninsula, the problem is housing inventory not keeping pace with job creation and workers moving here for the opportunity.

I applaud the Mountain View city council for approving high density housing in North Bayshore, this will ease some of the housing pressure, and hopefully either reverse or arrest the price increases. Before someone drops the straw man that those units will be small and expensive, keep in mind that those units will be filled with people who can afford them and are willing to live in them, freeing up their current residences for others.

We need more housing, cheaper housing.


13 people like this
Posted by @mvresident2008
a resident of North Bayshore
on Mar 11, 2016 at 7:04 am

Why is nobody mentioning what is causing this? Since the minimum wage went into effect of course MV is going to get overrun with an itinerant population. Why live on the street out in the valley at 7.25/hour when you live on the street in MV for 11/hour? We can learn from San Jose - implemented minimum wage in 2014 and by November that year had Americas largest homeless camp (Web Link)
Seattle implemented a minimum wage and now has a 'Jungle' (Web Link)
So I would say that the indications are that unless something is done pretty rapidly to either ban on-street parking or drop the minimum wage, Mountain View is going to have the next Jungle.


18 people like this
Posted by Amy Zucker Morgenstern
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2016 at 1:31 pm

I love church members who ask "what would Jesus do?" and do it. Apparently many of our neighbors think that Jesus would tell the poor to go away.

We created homelessness by allowing housing prices to climb as high as the market would bear. We created poverty by setting a minimum wage that is well below a living wage (not one that is too high!). We created misery by selling for-profit health care and shutting out anyone who can't afford that. This was once an affordable community, but now, even professionals commute in from the Central Valley because there is nowhere to live commensurate with their salaries.

We can build a more just community, where no one gains their place by grinding the faces of the unfortunate. NHN is one organization leading the way--thank you!

Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern
Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto


6 people like this
Posted by @North Bayshore
a resident of another community
on Mar 11, 2016 at 3:38 pm

Your solution to our current situation is to *lower* the minimum wage?

Seriously?

Why don't you just go ahead and advocate for the return of slavery while you're at it?


10 people like this
Posted by Permit?
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Mar 11, 2016 at 5:41 pm

If the car-dwellers are truly former MV residents displaced by increasing rents, then they were likely paying $2K-$4K+ in monthly rent until recently.

Could MV implement a permitting plan for car-dwelling spots (in limited designated areas)? Charge $1K-2K per month for each permit, and use the fees to cover municipal expenses related to car-dwelling (insurance, extended park bathroom hours, etc). Also, direct some of the collected fees to the planned (?) City fund designated for easing the impact of steep rent increases for some residents.

Each car-dwelling permit applicant would submit documentation of being a MV resident sometime in the past year.


21 people like this
Posted by Fish
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 11, 2016 at 9:40 pm

Amy, there is also the phrase "give a man a fish he'll eat for a day, teach a man to fish he'll eat for a lifetime". Encouraging people to remain in areas they cannot afford and will continually struggle is awful. Why would you do this? Why do you subject these poor people to thIs? To make them feel downtrodden? Take away even more of their self esteem? "Poor you, even though you can't afford it you should try to stay here because you're OWED."

Shame on you. but since it makes YOU feel better by all means, keep at it.


11 people like this
Posted by Arthur Baldwin
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Mar 11, 2016 at 9:58 pm

Publicity stunts do not lower housing prices.


3 people like this
Posted by @Rex Manor
a resident of another community
on Mar 12, 2016 at 3:38 pm

Never mind types like you have done everything to price those who lived in Mountain View a lot longer than you have right out of this area. Just go ahead and blame the poor for their predicament.

And you have the nerve to quote Scripture.


6 people like this
Posted by Not.Quite.Down.By.The.River
a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 12, 2016 at 5:47 pm

As a Latham Street resident (yes, we have internet connectivity!), I have to ask -- what's going on with the vacant residences while their owners are experimenting with homelessness?

I could sure use a weekend with real walls (and being able to stand indoors would be a huge win)! If anyone wants to trade for the "full van experience," please let me know how to get in touch with you!

Jeff


3 people like this
Posted by DC
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 12, 2016 at 6:35 pm

Why is Hillary in town again..... The area is friendly to support her cause.


8 people like this
Posted by Logos
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 13, 2016 at 11:52 pm

@Fish I think the Bible verse you need to refer to is Matthew 25:31-46 --'I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

Or, to paraphrase Otto from "A Fish Called Wanda:"
The primary tenet of Christianity isn't Every Man for Himself.


15 people like this
Posted by Fish
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 14, 2016 at 9:46 am

Well for the record I wasn't quoting a Bible verse, mine is a Chinese proverb. Regardless, i did not say not to help people. I feel it's harmful to encourage people to stay where they cannot afford.


6 people like this
Posted by @Rex Manor
a resident of another community
on Mar 14, 2016 at 2:10 pm

"I feel it's harmful to encourage people to stay where they cannot afford."

Once again: It's people like you, who are driving up rents and real estate prices, that are making this are unaffordable.

But I guess that doesn't matter to you.


16 people like this
Posted by Moved But Still Care
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Mar 14, 2016 at 2:40 pm

I moved out of Mountain View, and out of California, about 6 months ago for various reasons, but one large factor was the continual decline of quality of life in MV. I lived there for 16 years and in the beginning it was such a nice community and well balanced. We valued and respected each other. Residents understood and valued how our different roles in the community are interdependent upon each other in making a town worth living in: old, young, rich, poor, middle income, white collar, blue collar, diversity. It was inclusive and caring. We helped each other. This is what community means - helping insure no member becomes an island and cast out due to misfortune or change in circumstances. Today all I see is a town that has become elite and dangerously exclusive - it's quickly becoming, or has already become a sterile ivory tower - I hope those who feel living in Mountain View is only the right of those at certain income level never come across misfortune - this town is unforgiving with a short memory.


16 people like this
Posted by mvresident2003
a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 14, 2016 at 9:16 pm

mvresident2003 is a registered user.

@ @RexManor, no....no, I have to say it really doesn't. I worked very hard to get where I am, it wasn't given to me and I didn't expect it. I worked hard, I went without for many many years, I went back to school when I really didn't want to. Took on some debt doing that too btw.

So I won't apologize for where I am. I earned it. I feel good about it. I think people who are given everything, who are made to feel entitled, feel like everyone owes THEM, are cheated out of the pride and self worth I have.

But this is where we are coming from very different view points isn't it.


3 people like this
Posted by @Rex Manor
a resident of another community
on Mar 15, 2016 at 1:00 am

[Post removed due to disrespectful comment/personal attack]


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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