Community forum on 'homelessness,'
post-traumatic stress

A panel of speakers will address homelessness -- and the related problem of veterans dealing with post-traumatic-stress disorder -- at a "Healthy Communities" forum, set for 7 to 10 p.m. Wednesday, May 28, in the Menlo Park council chambers in the Civic Center, between Laurel and Alma streets.

Mayor Andy Cohen invites people to bring family and friends to join the discussion. Participating cities, he said, include Menlo Park, Portola Valley, East Palo Alto, Atherton and Woodside.

He said he has been organizing the forum for several months, and hopes it will be one of a series on issues shared by local towns.

For the May 28 forum, Mayor Cohen has invited officials from nearby towns to attend, and asked San Mateo Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson to speak.

The panel includes:

• Dr. Don Barr and Dr. Lars Osterberg of the Palo Alto Opportunity Health Center, both of whom have researched and written about homeless trends and services in the Bay Area.

• Kathy Espinoza-Howard of Palo Alto's Office of Human Services.

• Dr. Keith Harris of the Veteran's Affairs' Homeless Veteran Program.

"What do you do to help a homeless person?" Mayor Cohen said. "Do you give them money? Do you give them food? Do you volunteer for some organization? These are all good questions that I think people want answered."

If all goes according to Mr. Cohen's plan, the forum will be the first of several aimed at spurring Menlo Park and nearby cities to work together to tackle complicated issues facing the Peninsula and the greater Bay Area.


A forum devoted to keeping local youth out of gangs is scheduled for June 11 in the council chambers, Mayor Cohen said.

This event will be co-hosted by county Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson and Shauna Wilson-Mora, facilitation manager of the Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center.

That event is expected to have a panel made up of Menlo Park Police Cmdr. Lacey Burt and Sgt. Eric Cowans; Boys and Girls Club Executive Director Peter Fortenbaugh; and David Cherniss, the manager of juvenile mediation programs for the San Mateo County Superior Court.

Mayor Cohen said a future forum could focus on how to address the impacts of the construction of large residential basements in Menlo Park, Atherton, Portola Valley and Woodside.

"There's a tradition of [cities working together, but for the most part, it's been for isolated issues," Mr. Cohen said. "I think if we team up, and take a sub regional approach to problems in general, more things will get done."


Like this comment
Posted by I will be there
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 24, 2008 at 7:47 am

Thanks should go out to Mayor Cohen for taking the time and effort to start a series like this. Our communities face many problems and I would hope that a gathering like this will bring forth fresh ideas and solutions. I'm looking forward to attending

Like this comment
Posted by Martin Engel
a resident of Menlo Park: Park Forest
on May 24, 2008 at 5:55 pm

Thank you, Andy, for doing the right thing and doing it right. St. Paul said, "Do the truth."
Your enterprise embodies this powerful aphorism. Homelessness is a blight on the richest country in the world and the very idea of homeless veterans is shameful and ought to make us commit ourselves to immediate action. I hope, Mayor Cohen, that you persist with this agenda, go beyond speakers and get support for initiating an action plan in which all of us in Menlo Park can participate and "Do the truth."

Like this comment
Posted by Andy Cohen
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on May 25, 2008 at 5:03 am

By reading the web link to Rory's recap of my series' topics one can get an idea how the three themes connect, almost. In fact the 3rd topic is schools, and it WILL happen, although possibly not 'til early fall.

The connector of panels 1 & 2 is really public safety, as PTSD and gang violence converge where the volatility of human interaction can erupt in a deadly tragedy. We need to be proactive here.

Cities and school districts need to work across boundaries to make all our lives richer and our neighborhoods healthy and safe. This is a city and sub-regional issue (both at the same time).


Like this comment
Posted by Greg
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Hills
on May 28, 2008 at 8:15 pm

Thanks should go out to Mayor Cohen, but it sad that San Mateo County does so little to help the Homeless. The County Center on Homelessness is way understaffed and underfunded. But the county supervisors make it sound like there really care, topical county politics.

Like this comment
Posted by Dave
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on May 28, 2008 at 8:20 pm

This is one of the richest counties, but they do almost nothing to help the homeless. One you are homeless in this county you out of luck.

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