What the community needs to know about homelessness

September 5, 2011

Entrance to Prado Day Center

OPINION BY BECKY JORGESON

I am organizing a protest rally for this Wednesday (September 7) at 8 a.m. on the steps of the county courthouse in downtown San Luis Obispo. Please come if you can.

I am organizing the protest and I’m just sorry I didn’t do it a long time ago. I’m very weary of our homeless people being treated like animals. Park rangers cutting big tree limbs to fall on homeless encampments along the creek and destroying their belongings, including medications, ID’s, and other precious personal items.

Tickets given out to homeless for ‘trespassing’ and “loitering” – and people who have less than any chance of paying for them ending up in court.

Men being handcuffed and forced to sit on the ground so that police can “talk to them.” I was there. I spoke to the police officer and have the man on film.

Don’t forget the women like Hope (who I have permission to talk about) allowed to walk away from Prado Day Center in a severe manic state and no one taking  30 seconds  to pick up the phone and call the police to take her to in-patient (which they would have been happy to do, according to Sgt. Gibson at SLOPD). Because they have “150 other people at Prado” and didn’t have the time? What will it be like if and when they get a bigger shelter?

And there are the women dousing themselves with urine at night so they aren’t raped by the men in the creek (and yes, there is more than one who does this). How many people know these stories?

This is not about attacking those who currently work on behalf of our homeless population. It is about calling attention to the fact that we need to spend as much time and energy on our homeless humans as we do our homeless animals. Millions were spent on the animal shelter on Highway 1 and they have a tidy annual budget.

By contrast, $160,000 went into an 87-page document entitled “The Ten Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness” that took over 50 people working and three years to write up. Guess what?  There’s no money to implement it. (And these funds were supposed to put a new roof on the shelter.)

This is about state and federal laws (The Fair Federal Housing Act of 1964) that mandate our local governments provide housing (not shelter) for the indigent. Our county refuses to house the indigent (since 1964 when I came here). They arrest and punish Dan DeVaul who has successfully provided this housing for over a decade at no cost to the government) instead of giving him the Medal of Honor.

It’s the government who breaks the law and the community needs to be made aware of this.

This is about the local county counsel perjuring herself to HUD and in Board of Supervisors proceedings. This is about code enforcement staff lying about charges against Sunny Acres, which I have proof of. The community doesn’t know that ag vehicles on ag land are unrestricted, that I ordered an independent lab to come test the water at Sunny Acres, and it was free from contaminants, that the health department accused me of tampering with the sample, as if you could tamper with a sample to get it clean.

I have spoken personally to so many people who have been ‘kicked out’ of Prado – for thirty days minimum, and they don’t understand why. Or it was their word against someone else’s. One man was kicked out for a year—his wife has Alzheimers and fibromyalgia, and every day is a challenge. They were interviewed by KSBY and  New Times and have since been given a voucher for a motel and offers of help.

Where do people go who have no money, no food (yes, they can go by Prado and stand like a child by the gate and wait 15 minutes for someone to come out and offer them a sack lunch – but have no opportunity for breakfast or dinner). No way to get to another shelter, no way to shower, or do laundry, or make phone calls—the crime doesn’t fit the punishment.

I have been told by at least a dozen people that there are rat feces in the beds at the Maxine Lewis shelter on Orcutt Road. Two different men, at two different times told me when they reported this condition to staff, they were told, the same thing, verbatim: “Why don’t you just be a good guy and clean it up.” These two men don’t even know each other. When I asked about this, I was told she had no knowledge and the staff denied saying this. Of course, they are going to deny it.

Homeless people know they will get kicked out of the shelters if they make a fuss, or not do as they’re told. This is why I couldn’t get any of them to call Dee Torres to report the problem. She said it was because these people are mentally ill. The one man who reported this issue to me is not mentally challenged in any way. I have known him for three years. I helped him get jobs from Craigs’ List. His word is good.

I also heard of the drug and alcohol use at the overnight shelter by those I have spoken to who stay there. Again Dee Torres denied this. I asked her to go look and see for herself one night. All the homeless I speak to can’t be lying.

Again, I am not trying to attack anyone. My goal is to try to get some change in place in case we ever do get another shelter. If this small one can’t be handled properly, how do we have any hope for a newer bigger one to be successful? And why are some so-called homeless advocates trying so hard to take me down when they have issues in their own house?

Why doesn’t code enforcement, county counsel, DA, or the BOS go after others in the community who have known code violations/health and safety issues when they go after one so vehemently and cause him a decade of grief and depression? It is time for the community to know what really goes on.

Suffice it to say, things are not always as they seem. So that is why I am organizing the protest rally for Wednesday morning. I hope you can join us.

Becky Jorgeson is the founder of The Homeless Project of San Luis Obispo County.

 


20 Comments

  1. The Gimlet Eye says:

    Alternative headline:

    What the community needs to know about VAGRANCY.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  2. WiseGuy says:

    Thanks Becky.

    Unfortunately your effort to educate people and raise consciousness is most likely to inspire our local angry, personally troubled misanthropes to get on this forum and start spouting hateful, bigoted, selfish and ignorant comments implying that the homeless and/or the mentally ill are not deserving of concern, compassion or even basic tolerance.

    Notice how all these haters tend to lump entire populations of people together with prejudiced remarks, refusing to consider the homeless as unique individuals. Its the first step in marginalizing people and treating them as sub-human. People do this who are too lazy or selfish or just plain uncaring and want an excuse for their indifference and bigotry.

    I wonder what some of these people will do when one of their loved ones or they themselves suffer mental illness, addictions, or severe medical or personal problems.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 18

    • racket says:

      WiseGuy, what are doing with the lumping of all “haters” together, marginalizing them without any respect to their opinions, values and ideals. All you know is that they disagree with you.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 3

      • r0y says:

        That’s all he does anymore. One trick pony. Don’t believe me? Check out his last few days of posts… the person has some issues, that’s for sure. I hope he is dealing with them. Until then, I just skip over his tired-out complaints.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

        • WiseGuy says:

          I feel your pain “rOy”. WiseGuy doesn’t seem to be as often delivering the good ol’ inspiring, provocative, highly-read and always wise comments on this forum.

          But, please, don’t degrade yourself with some pretense that you “skip over” his postings. The fact is, YOU are one of his most consistent and persistent readers, have been for a long time and continue to be so.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 13

      • WiseGuy says:

        Would you prefer I call you guys out by name? I thought I was doing you a favor. But be absolutely sure I have very specific people in mind who I have gotten to know though their postings. I could name names if I wanted to, but in this case I though using a more “broad brush” approach was an act of KINDNESS and discretion. I don’t think you can say that about t he “haters” I was referring to.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 11

    • everyman says:

      Wiseguy, we will take care of our own, that is what we will do. it is what we all did before the gobmint got involved.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

      • WiseGuy says:

        Interesting point, “everyman”. Now tell us who you consider your “own”. And what if someone else’s “our own” is different from yours? Are we talking borders, families, or races?

        Who made the borders anyway? Not you or me. Why do you deserve to live here more than anyone else? Because you pay taxes? Everyone pays taxes, my friend.

        The “gobmint” is a reflection of the morals of the entire population as a whole, only slightly more transparent.

        Government and taxes can be a HIGHLY EFFECIENT way to pool resources for the common good. Do you have any idea of what our nation would be like without a sewage system. And we get that CHEAP, TOO CHEAP in fact. (The infrastructure is past due to be replaced most places.)

        And what do we do about the military if there is no “gobmint””? Get real, please.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 10

      • Typoqueen says:

        O man, you lose me on this one. ‘We will take care of our own’, are you kidding me, do you even know how backwards you sound? Once again another right wing wacko that hates the govt.. Form a militia, can your own food move to Montana and go back in time 100 years. In the mean time most of us want to progress. I don’t completely agree with WiseGuy but you (everyman) certainly don’t speak for most people (I hope). You’ll take care of your own, who’s going to take care of the Vietnam war vet living under the bridge? Who’s going to take care of the 50 year old woman with mental issues? They are ‘our own’.

        Did anyone used to watch the Beverly Hillbillies? They were just like everyman, ‘it’s the revenuers Jethro, stop eaten that possum and git yur shotgun!’

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 7

    • ON2U says:

      Here is a suggestion. Let every person who agrees with Becky take home and care for one homeless person. Surely there are more caring people in SLO than there are homeless ones. We always are expecting “the government” to take care of everything, but surely, out of the kindness of our hearts, we can decide to be the Good Samaritan and give a home to a homeless person. Especially on a cold and rainy night, one could drive around and find the poor souls and put them up if just for one night. Or feed them out of your kitchen door, the way women did during the last Great Depression. All these folks need is a chance to work and earn enough money to get off the streets. And if some mentally unable to care for themselves, then they should be put in a safe place, in a home with a family who will care for them and love them. Come on SLO, open your hearts and your homes to these poor, suffering souls.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  3. jackbnimble says:

    I’m not clear as to what specifically you are protesting.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  4. Typoqueen says:

    I have sympathy for this writers plight and I agree that there is a huge homeless problem that needs to be addressed.

    I don’t have sympathy for those that complain about a homeless shelter ie. rat cr@p. Times are tough, if there are rats then most likely its because of the food or crud brought in by the homeless. In a perfect world there wouldn’t be any rat poo and there would be private clean rooms with fresh flowered sheets. If a resident finds rat poo then they need to clean up the place, find the source, try to find a way to get some traps, ask the people that work there if they can get some traps for you set, ask if you bring a few cats in for a few days. If you’re not part of the solution then you’re part of the problem. Instead of complaining be happy that you have a roof over your head and earn your keep by cleaning the place up.

    There also seems to be some exaggerations in this story. Everyone says this or that,,’verbatim’. I don’t thing so.

    Okay, I’m sure I’ll get beat up for sounding like a cold hearted b!tch. I do feel bad for these people and do feel that those that truly have mental or physical disorders need our help. I hate the thought that many of these homeless people are war vets, many with PTSD. We need to do more for these people. What ever happened to the idea of fixing up those empty buildings at Fort San Luis for the homeless? That seemed like a good idea.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

    • r0y says:

      GAH! Typo and I are once again on the same side on an issue! That’s it… time to duck and cover! ;-)

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

      • Typoqueen says:

        “GAH! Typo and I are once again on the same side on an issue!”

        No way no how, take that back! We can’t agree, I have my reputation to protect.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

  5. Maxfusion says:

    “All the homeless I speak to can’t be lying.”

    How telling, personally I prefer speaking with people, and not “to” them. Careful what you write Becky, your agenda is showing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 4

  6. rogerfreberg says:

    Well, where do we begin.

    You have combined a lot of issues in your ’cause’ and , frankly, they should all be handled separately.

    1) The legacy of Dan DuVaul is a testament to the combination of indecisive and dishonest government. Dan should never never been allowed to go so far. The fact that he was able to violate community standards, if not law itself, is just sad. The fact that Dan was our supervisor’s unspoken ‘homeless’ solution is just wrong.

    2) Homelessness in our country has been around for a long time, first time folks started noticing it was after the civil war as displaced veterans had no work and no place to go started to hop the rails. ‘Hobo’ seems to have derived –some say in the mid to late 1800′s– from these displaced vets who were ‘HOmeward BOund.” With the withdrawal of the federal government from greater participation in addressing homelessness, local communities have had to step up to the plate. Some communities have been so successful in developing programs that they attract homeless from all over the state and, in some cases, the country. Most folks want to help our locals who fall on bad times. By the way, spending time at CMC or ASH doesn’t qualify you as a local.

    3) Within existing resources, if the Board of Supervisors wish to address our county’s homeless population, they should do so openly and with deference to each community they also serve. Any homeless program needs to be linked to work and/or public service.

    4) Here comes the ‘heartless part’… a leading Psychiatrist has put forward an interesting treatise in his book stating that a large portion of mentally ill are actually ‘Malingerers.’ What is the definition of this:

    “Malingering is the intentional production of false or grossly exaggerated physical or psychological symptoms, motivated by external incentives. In practice, malingering commonly must be differentiated from factitious disorder, which also involves intentional production of symptoms. In factitious disorders, the patient’s motivation is to assume the sick role, which can be thought of as an internal or psychological incentive.”

    Anecdotally, I witness a ‘homeless’ regular instructing a new ‘initiate’ how to ‘live for free.’ It is amazing how when you take the ‘free’ out of the equation, some folks just move on.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 1

    • mkaney says:

      I don’t agree with your views on Dan DuVaul.. but I am actually in total agreement with the most controversial part of your statement.. the issue on malingering. After having tried to help a number of people get back on their feet, basically removing any obstacle that they could state was preventing them from taking action, I have been witness to this psychological process. It is extremely frustrating and often totally renders any help useless.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

      • WiseGuy says:

        Good point, Mkaney. At that point we can still offer love and compassion, even for those who we don’t agree with or don’t understand. Life is mysterious. To always expect to have an answer or a tidy explanation for things is not realistic or healthful.

        So, I would still have to disagree with your conclusion that “any help is useless”. Sometimes helping best is not a matter of physical things, or intellectual things, its a matter of applying a sense of heart and soul. A single sincere kind word can do more for a person than a hundred dollars. It’s a matter of timing and intention. After that it’s in the hand of God.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  7. r0y says:

    as if you could tamper with a sample to get it clean – Uh, yeah. Yeah you can. It’s called filtering or boiling, or tablets… lots of ways to “purify” water.

    It’s the government who breaks the law and the community needs to be made aware of this. – Uh, yeah. Welcome to Cal Coast News, where many of the stories are about illegal government activities. This stuff has been going on since there was government!

    I have been told by at least a dozen people that there are rat feces in the beds at the Maxine Lewis shelter on Orcutt Road. Two different men, at two different times told me when they reported this condition to staff, they were told, the same thing, verbatim: “Why don’t you just be a good guy and clean it up.”
    Yeah, why don’t they clean it up? It’s not the HILTON, it’s not even Motel 6… if I find something in my bed, I clean it up! Heck I even wash my own sheets! Maybe the shelter just has no tolerance for people who WILL NOT look after themselves or have any respect for the temporary bed they are given? I don’t know, but I am open to discussion.

    Homeless people know they will get kicked out of the shelters if they make a fuss, or not do as they’re told. – Uh, yeah! It’s a necessity, as fusses and stubbornness begat anarchy, ultimately. I imagine the shelter HAS to run a tight ship, as far as discipline goes. Lord knows how awful it would be if they did NOT, no?

    I do agree with you about Dan DeVaul – I know he’s ornery and doesn’t like the government folks much (I can sympathize with him there!), I’d love to be there, but I have children to drop off (we leave about 0730, and by the time I am done, it’s about 0830).

    Still, good luck with the protest, I hope your message is pithy and concise; something to truly focus your cause and bring attention to the problems of homelessness.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 6

    • r0y says:

      Oh, and FYI, I think you meant “Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964″ if you wanted the ’64 version; otherwise, the Fair Housing Act is Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. And those are mainly for anti-discriminatory laws in the sale/rental/financing of housing.

      It’s not a law that says the government must provide housing… that’s a bit much. Might want to brush up on your CRA’64/’68…

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

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