What the community needs to know about homelessness
September 5, 2011
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.