SLO councilman asks CAPSLO to drop homeless services
March 21, 2014
By JOSH FRIEDMAN
One week after the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo (CAPSLO) shuffled the alignment of its homeless services personnel, a San Luis Obispo city councilman has asked the nonprofit to consider eliminating entirely its homeless services division.
On March 13, CAPSLO CEO Biz Steinberg notified the San Luis Obispo City Council that she was restructuring the homeless services division and effectively demoting its director Dee Torres. Previously, former CAPSLO employees accused homeless services staff, in particularly Torres, of taking gift cards and other donated items and making personal use of them.
Councilman Dan Carpenter replied to Steinberg Wednesday with an email asking her to consider eliminating homeless services from CAPSLO’s makeup and letting other organizations fill the role.
“I would hope CAPSLO would reconsider its involvement and commitment in the homeless services arena,” Carpenter wrote. “I understand it’s a very small segment of the organization and relinquishing those responsibilities to other organizations who are solely committed to serving this fragile population might better serve the community.”
Carpenter formerly defended CAPSLO when allegations surfaced about impropriety by homeless services staff. Last year, he questioned the credibility of CalCoastNews after it reported that thousands of dollars disappeared from the account of a homeless man in CAPSLO’s case management system.
But, in his March 19 reply to Steinberg, Carpenter went so far as to indicate he would no longer vote to fund CAPSLO’s homeless services program.
“As an elected representative of many constituents who demand accountability, I will be representing this position as we move forward with recommendations for homeless services funding,” Carpenter wrote.
CAPSLO receives the majority of its funding from government grants and subsidies. The San Luis Obispo City Council allocates more than $200,000 annually to its homeless services program.
Carpenter also stated that he would not support spending taxpayer dollars on a new homeless services property or building unless an overhaul of the program took place.
For several years, CAPSLO has planned to create a multimillion-dollar homeless services center. Plans have stalled, though, due to lack of funding and inability of the nonprofit to secure a location.
Under the new organizational structure, Torres will manage the Maxine Lewis homeless shelter and the Prado Day Center. She will lose control over the case management program, which handles clients’ money. Instead of reporting directly to Steinberg, Torres will begin reporting to CAPSLO Deputy Director Grace McIntosh.
Torres will also receive a more than20 percent pay cut. Former Prado Day Center Manager Shawn Ison, too, will take a hefty cut in pay, according to an email Torres sent last week.
Steinberg wrote that the changes would make the homeless services division operate in a more fiscally efficient and coordinated manner.
Torres ridiculed them in an email, claiming personal agendas prompted the restructuring.
Carpenter stated the organization shuffling had more to do with image management than serving clients and the community.
“There must be more to this decision than meets the eye,” he wrote.