A Vision for Services and Community Involvement at the Opportunity Center

In May, 2004, ground was broken for the Opportunity Center of the Mid-Peninsula in Palo Alto, right across the street from Stanford.  This facility represents a quantum leap in our society's relation to its unhoused citizens.  With 89 units of transitional and long-term housing, plus space for services currently provided by Urban Ministry of Palo Alto at its outdoor location, the center will make a very clear statement to the world that those without housing actually matter to the rest of us.

The Opportunity Center is the end point of a long process that included many people, including other PIA congregations who were working years before the Catholic Community at Stanford became a member.  What we seek in our group is to shift the focus to what kind of place it will be.  Our vision is that providing food, shelter, and clothing is only part of the solution; services to address the underlying causes are needed.  In particular, we are concerned with mental health services because of the stigma that surrounds mental illness.  During our period of research and understanding, we as a group discovered that mental illness is not only treatable but recoverable if it is diagnosed early enough.

Furthermore, we believe that for the Opportunity Center to thrive it needs active involvement from the Stanford, Palo Alto, and neighboring communities.  We want to see a structured way for individuals to contribute their own time and talent, perform valuable services, and get more out of the experience than simply the fuzzy feeling of knowing that they have "done good."

On May 25 the community met to hear the details of this vision, give their reaction, and listen to those most closely connected to this issue.  Our partners in attendance were:

  • Hon. Liz Kniss, Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, District 5
  • Prof. Don Barr, President, Community Working Group
  • John Holland, Chief Operating Officer, InnVision
In addition, the following groups sent representatives:
  • Santa Clara County
  • Community Working Group
  • Urban Ministry of Palo Alto
  • Stanford's Haas Center for Public Service
  • Alliance for Community Care
  • Menlo Park VA Hospital
  • Palo Alto Medical Foundation

This meeting was reported in The Valley Catholic.

Return to the home page