CAPSLO in line to receive homeless parking monopoly
September 3, 2013
BY KAREN VELIE and JOSH FRIEDMAN
The San Luis Obispo City Council is slated to vote Tuesday on an ordinance that will require private property owners who allow homeless individuals to sleep in their vehicles overnight to bring in Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo (CAPSLO) to manage the program.
Current ordinances make it a misdemeanor for businesses, churches or residential owners to allow anyone to sleep overnight in a vehicle in their parking lot or driveway. The ordinance applies whether the person is homeless, a long haul truck driver or a tourist stopping to rest.
If the council passes the proposed safe parking ordinance, property owners who allow a person to sleep in a car in San Luis Obispo, without CAPSLO’s oversight could still be charged with a misdemeanor. In addition, homeless people, truck drivers and tourists accepting the charity of a free parking place can also be charged with a misdemeanor.
The proposed ordinance contains restrictive wording that would prohibit other non-profits and religious organizations from providing parking for the homeless unless CAPSLO case managers provide oversight and case management. CAPSLO’s case management includes the requirement that homeless individuals pay CAPSLO or an affiliate agency a monthly fee to hold 50 to 70 percent of their income.
CAPSLO has successfully worked for years with San Luis Obispo County staff to garner the greatest amount of federal dollars available to local non-profits. A string of emails between CAPSLO’s Director of Homeless Services, Dee Torres, and San Luis Obispo County staff demonstrate how Torres has participated in funding discussions with county staff that other non-profits have been prohibited from attending.
“Maybe we can avoid the infighting if we keep to city/county reps, key community advisers, and direct services provider linkages (keep Friends of Prado, EOC, PSHH, Transitions, Housing Authority etc., out of this particular group),” Torres said in a 2008 email.
San Luis Obispo County Planning Supervisor Dana Lilley said he agreed with keeping other non-profits off of the committee. County planner Torell Morgan noted that they should allow the other non-profits to battle among themselves after the primary funding decisions have been made.
“If we could keep our focus on securing the buy in for the plan and let the non-profits go at it in the HSCC exec meeting we could keep our focus,” Morgan wrote in the email string.
CAPSLO officials first approached the city of San Luis Obispo with a request to promote a safe parking program in 2011.
Torres contends homeless individuals need to be managed by an agency already providing services to the homeless.
“I think it’s important to have a service provider that has experience with the population,” Torres said while promoting the ordinance to the SLO City Council.
Torres’ fiance, San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill, as the 2011 chair of the Homeless Services Oversight Council, sent out a resolution to local governments claiming homeless parking programs are “necessary and valuable.”
In March 2012, SLO City Councilman John Ashbaugh made a motion to permit CAPSLO to operate a six month safe parking pilot program. It passed 5-0, as did another motion by Ashbaugh to extend the program for an additional six months. Ashbaugh claims his votes as a councilman to favor that nonprofit organization posed no conflict of interest, even though he sits on the CAPSLO board.
CAPSLO, which has supported aggressive ticketing of homeless in the past, has a stated goal of helping homeless individuals achieve self-sufficiency and housing.
In order to participate in the safe parking program or secure a bed in the shelter, homeless individuals are required to enter case management, which means they have to surrender 50 to 70 percent of their income (typically meager disability, social security or general relief benefits) to be held by CAPSLO or an affiliate agency.
Former employees of CAPSLO contend clients on case management regularly complain that monies given to their CAPSLO case managers are not returned in full. CAPSLO officials claim the complaints are unfounded.