Homeless reject SLO parking plan

May 29, 2012

Robert Watts after having his vehicle seized by police

EDITOR’S NOTE: See Dee Torres’ refusal to respond to questions and Supervisor Adam Hill asks San Luis Obispo City Council to approve parking program at the bottom of this story.

By KAREN VELIE

Throughout the city of San Luis Obispo, hundreds of homeless sleep in their vehicles risking the threat of raids by local police, heavy fines, jail time for unpaid tickets and, ultimately, the loss of their only shelter.

Even so, those in need of a secure place to park at night say the terms set by management of the Prado Day Center will violate their basic constitutional rights and further erode the little control they have over their lives.

In March 2011, San Luis Obispo County supervisor and former chair of the Homeless Services Oversight Council (HSOC), Adam Hill, signed a safe parking resolution that states that homeless who sleep in their cars are a threat to public safety. (Supervisor Jim Patterson is the current chair of the HSOC. Hill, who stepped down from his chair position last fall, continues to claim on his website and at political forums that he is currently the HSOC chair.)

In March, San Luis Obispo City Council members voted to approve the implementation of a pilot program aimed at providing safe parking for a small number of homeless who sleep in their vehicles at night at a cost to the city in staff time of approximately $80,000. The Prado Day Center, which is under the umbrella of Community Action Partnership (CAPSLO), is slated to spend an additional $11,000 to $18,000 bringing the total cost to just under $100,000 for the six-month pilot period.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pilot program allows CAPSLO to provide five-parking spots at the Prado Day Center on a lot already owned by the city.

To date, none of these spaces has been occupied.

At a recent Homeless Services Oversight Committee meeting, homeless services coordinator Dee Torres announced that no one had yet applied for the parking program likely because their social activities prevented them from wanting to take part, said Grover Beach Councilwoman Karen Bright.

Several people who sleep in their vehicles on Prado Road said they applied for the program and were either turned away or chose not to continue the application process because of the financial requirements.

The rules for those who would like to utilize the parking spots include signing over their payroll or government checks to a Prado administrator who will manage their finances with the stated goal of using the funds to place them into housing.

Currently, homeless who utilize services at the Prado Day Center, including the meal program and the proposed parking program, are required to agree to searches of their persons and vehicles.

During their presentation on the proposed parking plan, city staffers pointed to a successful program in Santa Barbara that provides spaces for more than 100 cars. And while Santa Barbara’s program includes case management, it does not include the requirement to sign over income and subsidy checks, said Nancy Kapp, Santa Barbara’s Homeless Outreach coordinator and case manager.

“These people are living on $1,000 a month and you don’t take money from these people,” Kapp said. “It is highway robbery and wrong.

“We are a non-profit and our services are free. You don’t give something and ask for something, you give it unconditionally.”

SLO Community Director Derek Johnson defended the program saying, “The idea is to help people become self-sufficent and to learn how to manage their money. We are working to transfer people out of homelessness.”

Nevertheless, 56 percent of California’s homeless have a disabling condition, 52 percent are on some type of government assistance, and another 25 percent work at least 20 hours per week often not making enough to pay for food, necessities and housing, according to California’s 2009 Homeless Count Summary.

The chronically homeless – those who are either physically disabled, mentally ill, mentally challenged, elderly, or deep in the throes of alcoholism – cost taxpayers an average of $65,000 a year in medical costs alone, according to a University of California San Diego Medical Center study.

In Denver, local agencies run a program aimed at providing assistance to the chronically homeless while the cost of their healthcare is cut an average of two thirds. Clients are provided efficiency lodging at approximately $15,000 a year per enrollee, less than a third of what it costs to leave them on the streets.

San Luis Obispo County has few resources available for the mentally ill and the chronically homeless who are both unlikely to become productive members of society.

Attorney Stew Jenkins contends publicly funded services and benefits must be available to all on an equitable and legal basis.

“A number of courts have grappled with cities and counties throughout the nation who have tried to condition the provision of publicly funded services by prohibiting individuals from being eligible unless they waive their fourth amendment rights to be secure in their persons, homes, and effects,” Jenkins said. “In general, these kinds of programs conditioning eligibility for public benefits on first giving up constitutional rights have been struck down.

“The Prado Day Center rules so broadly require so many waivers of legal and constitutional rights that they do not appear to meet this standard. In fact, these rules are so broadly written that an individual missing a daily dose of prescribed heart burn medication a couple of days in a row could be suspended from health services, employment development referrals, showers or meals based on the whim of whoever is assigned to provide enforcement for up to four months.”

Nevertheless, on Friday, Jenkins accompanied two homeless residents interested in utilizing the parking spaces and was informed there is no application available. Homeless interested in the spaces are only permitted to verbally apply for safe parking during two hour windows set for Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Jenkins said

Susan Perez currently resides in a small RV she parks on Prado Road. She applied for one of the five parking spots and contends she does not object to the urine testing or the breathalyzer, but she refuses to sign her disability check over to an administrator because in six months, when her husband is off probation, she plans to move from the area. Prado’s financial requirement would have left Perez about $200 a month to live on.

“I met all the requirements for parking,” Perez said. “Dee Torres wanted me to make her my payee. She wants to keep 70 percent of my income.”

Homeless for about a year and a half, Randal Reed is battling cancer. The former Navy seal was sent to Los Angeles veterans services about a year ago where an MRI showed his back is riddled with tumors. He is still awaiting a followup appointment.

Meanwhile, he is unable to work and had been sleeping by a creek. That was before another homeless man said he would share his RV, parked on Prado Road so Reed would have easy access to homeless services.

However, on June 1, Reed will have to choose between sleeping in the RV or being permitted to have a meal at the day center. Following the refusal of homeless who eat meals at the Prado Day Center to apply for the pilot program parking spaces, center management posted a notice that those who sleep in their cars along Prado Road will be barred from using the center’s homeless services.

“This is an infraction of our rights,” Reed said. “We are being harassed. Dee Torres is not good to the homeless.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In April, attorneys Saro Rizzo and Stew Jenkins filed a lawsuit against the city of San Luis Obispo and the chief of police for discrimination, harassment and the criminalization of homeless people. The attorneys are asking the court to order the city to stop enforcing a city ordinance that prohibits sleeping in vehicles and to pay financial damages and costs on behalf of their homeless clients.

In response, the city hired the Oakland based attorney firm of Burke Williams & Sorensen.

Jenkins said the city had an opportunity to avoid the lawsuit by stopping its discrimination against the homeless. He wrote to the city attorney and council shortly before filing the suit and asked the city to suspend its sleeping vehicle ordinance, dismiss pending citations, expunge convictions and return fines.

The city refused Jenkins’ request.

 

Dee Torres’ refusal to respond to questions

Homeless services coordinator Dee Torres refused to respond to questions about the Prado Day Center’s safe parking program or rules instead asking for several retractions regarding a story published on March 22 titled “SLO homeless plan facing legal battle.”

“You state in your article that I am a proponent of the more aggressive ticketing of homeless people camping in their vehicles,” Torres said. “This is a lie. I made no such statement.”

However, Torres said during the March 20 SLO City Council meeting that she supported staff’s proposal that included the more aggressive ticketing.

[youtube mHhIJ_c6po4 600 500]

In addition, Torres responded to a letter from Tim Waag critical of the more aggressive ticketing with her reasons the proposed increased enforcement is important.

“I can tell you that my staff and I made it clear to the city and the chief that the unregulated encampment on Prado Road have been extremely problematic for our staff and clients,” Torres wrote.

Torres also asked for a retraction related to the cost of the program.

“You state that the pilot program would cost $80,000. This is untrue. It was made very clear at the meeting that at the very most the total cost predicted for CAPSLO to run the six-month pilot program would be close to $18,000.”

However, during the city council meeting, Torres did not quote a price CAPSLO expected to pay for the program. City staff, however, did estimate the program would cost the city $79,923 in man hours, according to a tape of the meeting and a power point presentation.

Torres’ final request for retraction was regarding a reference to her relationship with Supervisor Hill. “You refer to me as “the girlfriend” of Supervisor Adam Hill, which I find to be a demeaning characterization.”

CalCoastNews retracts published information when it turns out to be untrue and offered to retract the statement if they were no longer in a relationship at the time of the meeting. Torres did not respond.

 

Supervisor Adam Hill asks San Luis Obispo City Council to support the  parking program which included more aggressive ticketing of homeless who sleep in their cars.

[youtube KBxpl8U6IqM 600 500]


75 Comments

  1. Trailerparkboy says:

    Is this really the best way to assist the less fortunate or people on hard times? Due to whatever circumstance — physical, mental or economic. Everyone in this country has had to make decisions based upon the reality of their own plight. Yes, some are a lot better off than others. Some of us are of modest means. Some in our county give a whole lot more than publicized. To have a process that starts with “overnight parking and a Homeless Campus” that takes advantage of local residents? Most residents would help voluntarily. Can I ask a few pertinent questions: Does these “homeless” have a county or city of origin? Why is it that if I’m at odds with these new found ways to “help” do I or anyone else have to be pigeon holed into a person that’s mean spirited? Can we at least do a better job on the less fortunate from our county before we make a grandiose attempt at doing a good and decent thing? I’m at a real disadvantage here. My family is one of the founding families of this county. My perspective is one of preservation and protection. Take care of our at-need residents and the resistance to help will be negligible. Try not to import more problems than we’re set up for.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

  2. smartmouth says:

    5 spots? Give me a break.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 4

  3. dante0182 says:

    If they have settlement talks, hopefully an impartial person from outside the area will be selected. On a recent City settlement meeting, word has it the City hired one of the City Planning Commissioners. So much cronyism.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 3

  4. obispan says:

    There is no easy solution for this issue. And please save the underlying causes debate for November. In the end the City, and County will, in time, have to provide answers to their constituents’ concerns and direction to their staff, be it “I understands your concerns sir or ma’am but unfortunately this is what Prado Road is today” or “Chief, I want your officers out there enforcing the Muni Code letter by letter 24/7″ (like the trash can rules and the frat boys with the couches in the yard). If Rizzo and Jenkins prevail it will be the first, probably accompanied by a court order for the city to provide sanitation services, if the City’s high $$$ Bay Area attorneys prevail it will be the second, or the judge will come up with something in between. Everybody, regardless of their political bent, spouting off “why don’t they just do this?” or questioning the motives of those trying to address it are just spewing. The idea of using parking lots after hours is ludicrous. Parking in a lot is no different from parking on the street. Why would they accept ANY behavioral restrictions? In the end the law is the only enforceable restriction, either the police enforce the law, or they don’t, or they do on a selective basis, and that is in fact up to YOU, way more than you think. City Hall is not drooling at the thought of government regulation on this one.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

    • RU4Real says:

      Frankly, I’m sick of all these deadbeat freeloaders flocking into SLO & taking over. It’s impossible to even go to Mission Plaza without being “assaulted” by the onslaught of these deadbeats with their hands out. Most of them come from OTHER AREAS, but arrive here in droves from as far away as British Columbia! WTF…I’m sick of it. I just paid $800 for vet care for my dog, yet all these flakes somehow always have a dog or two with them…These flakes are out panhandling with their animals & I can barely afford proper care for mine & UNLIKE the majority of these derelicts, I have been gainfully employed my whole life & have NEVER looked for handouts from the government or anyone else…Get these freeloaders a one way ticket out of town. Hell, I’ll even contribute to THAT, just to get rid of them…

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 23 Thumb down 15

      • obispan says:

        Oddly enough, the one-way ticket is how the problem started. When Santa Cruz was about where SLO is now about 20 years ago they did buy one-way tickets to ship the homeless out, destination; San Luis Obispo (the out-flux was quickly replaced and has since multiplied). They picked closest medium-sized city near the coast with great weather. They’re not going to take a ticket to Modesto. Again, Santa Cruz is currently considering reviving the idea under the slogan, “Helping the Homeless Home” or something like that. Yeah, right, I’m not going back to where I’M from. Anyhow 4Real, check out the article at the Santa Cruz Sentinel then get back to me. As Flanders would say “we’ve got ourselves a dilly of a pickle”. No homeless in Beverly Hills, hey maybe that’s why we’re paying top $$$ for our City Manager (and I have been critical and remain skeptical to date). Santa Cruz and then Santa Barbara were first up and got caught with their pants down, as has SLO has now. I’m pretty opinionated and am quick to come to conclusions but am stumped. I’m waiting for my tax dollars paying the big salaries to solve this one. I will burn God knows what for a happy, comforting fire while we put the APCD director to work in a new government job at a lower salary.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

        • RU4Real says:

          I was thinking about attending the Greek Festival at Mission Plaza today, but decided against it because of all the tweekers & deadbeats that have taken to hanging out down there…It’s a pity that these derelicts turned Mission Plaza into such a deplorable place…I refuse to shop in downtown SLO & would MUCH rather go the distance & shop in Simi Valley or San Fernando Valley, I have not seen derelicts in either of those places…I’m seriously thinking of selling my home & re-locating to the ‘burbs of L.A.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 5

          • mkaney says:

            If Mission Plaza is a deplorable place to you, then may I suggest living in a bubble? Anyone who would SERIOUSLY much rather go to SAN FERNANDO VALLEY than San Luis Obispo, belongs in LA. The SFV is so infected with derelicts it’s ridiculous.. the difference you do most of your shopping there in a MALL

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 8

            • RU4Real says:

              Mission Plaza not only is deplorable to me, but it’s downright dangerous. I don’t even attend Mass there because of the transients & druggies…I’ve been all over the San Fernando Valley (not just the malls) & HAVE NEVER encountered any derelicts. There is NO PROBLEM attending Mass down there, grocery shopping, attending street fairs & YES, they even have farmers markets…all without freeloaders & derelicts. They also have SUNSHINE & THE AIR QUALITY IS PRETTY DAMNED GOOD… I never expected downtown SLO would turn into another SKID ROW, but sadly, it has…It’s disgusting!

              Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 6

              • smartmouth says:

                What? Really? You apparently have not seen any skid row and it is hardly disgusting. What is wrong with you?

                Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 8

                • RU4Real says:

                  Yes, smartmouth I have seen a number of “skid rows”…It’s just that for a small community the size of SLO, the number of transients/meth heads & drunks is disgusting…Keep them out of the down town area or SLO will have many more vacancies than they now have. Not only are the majority of these people disgusting, they can be downright abusive…Who needs that???

                  Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 3

        • The Gimlet Eye says:

          Vagrancy used to be illegal.

          Deport the illegal aliens, bring back the hoboes.

          That’s the ticket.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

      • mkaney says:

        There must be something about you that attracts freeloaders, because I walk downtown all the time and I almost never get “assaulted” or even asked for anything. If I do, I usually just keep on going and that’s the end of it. Are you just really sensitive, or what?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 10

        • RU4Real says:

          NO, mkaney I am NOT being overly sensitive…I haven’t even seen as many derelicts on the streets of Manhattan. But of course, they have a much better Police presence there. I did not see even one panhandler in Manhattan & SLO (even though it’s much smaller) has an over abundance of derelicts/transients. Maybe YOU enjoy the presence of these druggies/bums…(Just wondering…) I don’t…

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 5

          • The Gimlet Eye says:

            NYC got really tough on those types a few years back because they were getting out of control. SLO will have to do the same.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  5. rogerfreberg says:

    It sounds to me that Adam is just backing up his rumored ‘girlfriend.’

    Frankly, a certain amount of choice goes out the window ( or should) once someone accepts public assistance… in college, their is something called work-study… working for a partial deferment of tuition. It seems that something like this could happen.

    Anyway, I think that finding solutions thrust on the rest of us isn’t very neighborly, Adam.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 8

  6. Mr. Holly says:

    Where are all of the “do gooders?” What is wrong with the parking lot at CAPSLO? Open the parking lot up at 5pm and let these people park overnight. The facility could allow the use of their bathroom facilities to these people also. Social Service could also provide the same services. There is also the large parking lot at the Honor Farm. It seems like the county could easily address this problem if all of the government roadblocks were not in place.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 13

    • RU4Real says:

      The county needs to lighten up on Sunny Acres & allow these deadbeats to park there with their “beaters”.. If they pay Dan a stipend for parking (& maybe even do some work around the place) it would benefit everyone…even the County would benefit…Think about it…

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 10

  7. mkaney says:

    This is SO dumb!!! I am baffled by this ridiculousness. To let homeless people park somewhere, you don’t have to do anything! You have to NOT do something, which is ticket the vehicles. They are public streets, let the public park on them. People’s rights are not eliminated by the fact that it might bother the sensibilities of others. The time, money, and energy being put into discussing and planning this could probably gives those people temporary homes. Stop the madness!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 13

    • kayaknut says:

      Please post your address so the anyone can park in front of your house and use your yard for a restroom, trash bin, do drugs at your front door, and have parties all night long.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 13

      • mkaney says:

        EVERYTHING in life has some consequences.. Like, for example, if you move into a pristine sterile housing development, there are bound to be some self righteous pretentious jerks. Nonetheless, we all need to survive, and a little tolerance and kindness goes a long way. It seems like people are afraid to attempt to communicate and work things out with anyone directly anymore and just call the lawyer or the cops. I think that you’d be surprised that for the MOST part, people are cooperative when you treat them with some respect.

        There are exceptions, there are exceptions to everything, but spending huge amounts of money to herd people into concentrated areas (camps?) SIMPLY and ONLY because of their situation in lfie is wrong, I don’t care you sell out.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 12

      • Slowerfaster says:

        Please post your address and name so that perhaps some could throw eggs at your house, drop dog do-dos on your porch, do sign walking protests at ungodly hours.

        Equality is a Bee-otch.

        Wake up to reality, conservative hole.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 16

    • willieslo says:

      mkaney
      Agree
      Everyone, anyone needs somewhere to hang their hat and rest and it sure don’t take $80,000+ to manage 5 lousy vehicles on Prado Road.
      Dan Devaul understands this basic life need, and given some time and support (before the County incapacitated and blackmailed his efforts) he would have progressively managed it and without the need of $80K plus.
      Last time I spoke with him, he was assured that no one from across his lot (affluent area) made any complaints, he holds Supervisor Gibson responsible for what has resulted (The government need to pardon the expensive sanctions against him and allow him to start over without interference and with some non-political support!!!).
      Next time you need fire wood, stop by his place and feel free to chat with him, you will enjoy a down to earth and intelligent conversation with him!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 6

    • willieslo says:

      mkaney
      Agree
      Everyone, anyone needs somewhere to hang their hat and rest and it sure don’t take $80,000+ to manage 5 lousy vehicles on Prado Road.
      Dan Devaul understands this basic life need, and given some time and support (before the County incapacitated and blackmailed his efforts) he would have progressively managed it and without the need of $80K plus.
      Last time I spoke with him, he was assured that no one from across his lot (affluent area) made any complaints, he holds Supervisor Gibson responsible for what has resulted (The government need to pardon the expensive sanctions against him and allow him to start over without interference and with some non-political support!!!).
      Next time you need fire wood, stop by his place and feel free to chat with him, you will enjoy a down to earth and intelligent conversation with him!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 7

  8. Ted Slanders says:

    Once again, and like Tammy has proposed, the homeless are not going away! Don’t worry, I will leave the Christian aspect out of this situation relative to Jesus’ teachings.

    Subjectively, and again, we need to return to the Farm Labor Camps of the Dustbowl era of the 1930’s like they had in California and Arizona. They were government run, and they were equal to small cities. To be able to reside in one of these camps, you had to work.

    With the Central Coast’s vineyards, agriculture, and other jobs that a certain faction wouldn’t do, this presents to the homeless many opportunities to pay for their housing at one of these camps. Seemingly. a win-win situation.

    The Weedpatch Camp, formerly known as the Arvin Federal Government Camp, was used by Steinbeck in the movie “Grapes of Wrath”, and is still used today by migrant workers and is a great paradigm to follow.

    http://www.weedpatchcamp.com/Life%20in%20Camp/life.htm
    http://www.weedpatchcamp.com/History/history.htm

    An example of a newly opened farm labor camp in Sonoma, California. Read about what this encampment provides! If they can do this for farm labor, barring the fact that most are illegals, not that it matters, why can’t it be done in California for the homeless on a yearly basis to give them a foundation to better themselves in the future?

    http://www.sonomanews.com/News-2011/Migrant-worker-camp-opens/

    Even though the upcoming Prop 29 has nothing to do with the homeless, but the raising of cigarette taxes for cancer research, but if passed, it will generate $1 billion a year in revenue! Wouldn’t it be great if this revenue would be used for homeless camps in the same vein as the homeless farm workers? Then this problem is finally addressed instead of always complaining about it.

    Prop 29 duplicates programs that already exist in the cancer research area and will represent further beaurocracy and waste! Therefore, if passed, and with wishful thinking, let it be used for a problem that has gone far too long without any remedies other than pushing the homeless down the road in a NIMBY scenario.

    Or, God forbid, a new Proposition before the voters that addresses the homeless in our state? Naw, the “willieslo’s” would object to this type of situation because they use their insidious sweeping generalizations in thinking that all of the homeless want to be that way, and it’s their fault for being homeless. Nonsense!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 16

    • unlisted says:

      Great idea, Ted, but everyone from the Sierra Club, to the tea party, civil rights advocates and NIMBYs will join forces to prevent it from happening.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 9

    • willieslo says:

      “Or, God forbid, a new Proposition before the voters that addresses the homeless in our state? Naw, the “willieslo’s” would object to this type of situation because they use their insidious sweeping generalizations in thinking that all of the homeless want to be that way, and it’s their fault for being homeless. Nonsense!”

      Gee Ted
      That was “MIGHTY GODLY” of you, thanks for your “HOLY” and “HEAVENLY” assumptions.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 9

    • hijinks says:

      Prop 29 is a good measure. It is being opposed by Big Tobacco (read who pays for the ads against it: RJR and Philip Morris), and Slanders’ comments against it come straight from Big Tobacco’s script. Please vote for it.

      Prop. 29 has nothing to do with the homeless situation.

      If Slanders wants a proposition to pay for homeless services, why doesn’t he get one started and get it on the ballot instead of dithering about hot air? Maybe because it’s easier to write this stuff than to actually do something.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 12

      • Slowerfaster says:

        “Maybe because it’s easier to write this stuff than to actually do something.”

        As opposed to bloviating about Ted while doing nothing yourself.

        Over 50% of homeless are CHILDREN. 12% or more are VETERANS.. The bulk of the rest have major disabilities..mental, physical, or both, A very small percentage are gamers of the sytem. Some even choose a nomadic lifestyle, experiencing the type of ‘freedom’ phony conservatives wax drunken-tongued about.

        I smell the hypocrite.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 9

Comments are closed.