Sunny Acres couple living in car with nowhere to go

September 1, 2011

Rancher Dan DeVaul

Two of the people, a former Los Osos couple, forced to leave Sunny Acres last weekend under court order are now living out of their car and the wife says they have nowhere to go. [KSBY]

Velma Hunt and Brex Owen were among the 15 residents forced to leave the sober living facility on Los Osos Valley Road under court order of Judge Charles Crandall who was concerned about unsafe living structures on the property.

Judge Crandall made no provision for where the 15 homeless people were to go.

For Hunt and Owen, the only place was their car, which they are keeping parked behind a gas station in Morro Bay, among other places. Owen is an unemployed painter. Hunt gets $800 a month in disability payments and suffers from Alzheimer’s.

“We had a decent life, a real decent life, we were real people,” said Hunt. “The transmission went out on our car, my husband lost his job and after that happened we lost our place.

“Never, never in a million years did I think that in the United States of America, this could happen to us.”

Sunny Acres will continue to be the subject of surprise inspections by county officials to prevent further code violations. Rancher Dan DeVaul, owner of Sunny Acres, is due back in court in October.

Meanwhile, Hunt and Owen are uncertain about their future.

“Where do we go? There is no place for us.” said Hunt.




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It’s shameful that the United States of America, the richest most powerful country in the world, has even a single homeless person. Forget liberal / conservative divisions or ideologies, people who fall on hard times need support. This is the message of every philosophy of love or religion, and is the heart of ethics. So let’s not lose sight of compassion to our fellow man & woman.

If you care to really look at the heart of what causes homelessness, addiction and the problems these people suffer, you might not be so judgemental when you hear their stories. They are caught in many a crossfire on a social battlefield. You can enjoy it from your armchair, unless, of course it reaches into your family.

I’ve been to Sunny Acres repeatedly over the past several years. Whether you believe Dan DeVaul is exploiting these people, or running a program haphazardly, or creating some symbiosis where he enables the vulnerable to need him, one thing is abundantly clear from any perspective: many people need a place like Sunny Acres. And those who have suddenly found themselves thru many unfortunate means (whether thru disease, bad judgement, circumstance, addictions) to be vulnerable, you need a place like Sunny Acres in your community. But you may not think so:

For those who have not been there to talk with people there, you’d be very surprised to know that they love it. There is a real tangible sense of caring for each other, a community of like individuals who share and support each other, against the backdrop of meaningful work and self improvement. No place is perfect, and believe me, there are problems.

If you think Mother Theresa walked on water, or Ghandi was great, or Christ is the moral Superman, consider that as human beings, they all have one thing in common: they cared. Not saying DeVaul measures up to any of them, he’s as falible as they come. But he actually does something about those who are in need: he helps them. And he makes them accountable. And he forgives them, and tries again. Not so in the shelters. You’re banned for a month if you make a mistake. Oh, but we need rules, you say. Indeed, especially if they’re compassionate ones.

This couple could easily be you or I. Being poor is very expensive where the most ordinary tasks become monumental. Once you’re down, to get back up requires a lot of momentum and support. It takes time. And places like Sunny Acres, where you can stay put for a while–as long as you try–give you that time to rebuild. Not so at shelters where you’re carted back and forth based on the time of day. The Day Shelter, The Overnight Shelter. This is our government’s plan…keep you unstable under the guise of helping. Makes people chronic, dependent and unaccountable.

Now if Crandall, the Board of Supervisors, et al could venture beyond their technocratic blinders, they might indeed see that DeVaul is protecting these vulnerable people. Crandall says, “I’m not playing games.” But he doesn’t understand that the founder of Sunny Acres has a mission to watch over these people, who for all intents and purposes, are economic refugees, or victims of sexual abuse, or PTSD-stricken veterans, or mentally ill people. The government barely takes care of people, so let this man Dan DeVaul do it!

Dan is right, “it’s going to get ugly,” because these officials who allegedly represent and protect us, are purely reactive to insubordinate citizens who take morality into their own hands and exceed the government’s control.

In a society designed to champion the profit makers, to elevate the competitive, to allow the concentration of power in a defacto social Darwinist “might makes right” economy, it must be astounding the high degree of disciplined rationalization that these Technocrats must apply to interpret law that covers their fear of accountability and rebrands it as “justice.”

These are the real bullies of our time.

Ah, here lies an unprecedented opportunity for the fine liberal folks of our community that complain we don’t provide enough social services to lend a helping hand themselves — simply allow this poor couple to park in your driveway and provide them with kitchen and bathroom privileges in your home.

Oh, wait … That won’t work. I forgot that liberals only want to help by having “someone else” make the sacrifices.

So what you’re saying, ds, is because social services are a little inconvenient to maneuver, they should just give up on employment and stay on DeVaul’s property? Sounds defeatist to me.

Public transit is available and easy to use in SLO. Many shelters have volunteers who will arrange for transportation to and from job interviews.

Beats living in the back of a Morro Bay gas station. Sounds like there’s a little more to their story.

Dan Deval, poor homeless people…and all that…these issues are important, but I see it differently.

Isn’t the real issue that the county selects individuals from time to time and ruins their lives? If you speak wrong to someone, you are fair game, and the fines and inspections start rolling in. Isn’t this what it is all about? The county seems to be run by small minded people with little egos and big sticks who seem to enjoy ruining people.

It never was about doing what is right, or doing what is best for people. The county seems to exist for its own sake and we are just targets.

It is disappointing that both sides couldn’t work together to create a solution. But it seems to me that both drew lines in the sand which couldn’t be crossed. We’ll never know if they could have resolved the issues. I don’t think that really affordable housing exists around here without significant subsidies.

The people caught in the middle are the ones who lost out.

How many cows can Deval run on his place?

I was just talking to my daughter asking her how she thinks the homeless keep clean.

She said public restroom and laundry at the creek (she is only 12 years old).

“Judge Charles Crandall who was concerned about unsafe living structures on the property.”

“Judge Crandall made no provision for where the 15 homeless people were to go.”

I next asked her what would we do if a major disaster occurred in SLO.

She ironically said ask the homeless people for help because they know how to do and what to do.

My daughter is 100X more the worth than these county supervisors and anyone in the justice system.

We had breakfast at MacDonalds, outside we saw a homeless man having coffee (Not soliciting) and she told me to give him some money, I had my daughter give him $2.

Dan DuVaul is not and should not be the ‘last resort’ of the homeless, he runs a business and not a good one at that, nor do I find him to be a good neighbor. BTW, go on-line to homeless sites and you will see that someone has been promoting his place to the world. From my viewpoint, it’s all about money.

I am amused that so many folks who frequent this site call for government programs and money spent this and that way… and yet, they think it is just fine to drop all their ethical standards and help Dan make some money. As for SLOBIRD, he (she) sounds a bit threatening and that should be of concern.

Oh, pick on Christine Mulholland if you like; I sure have done it over the years myself on other issues. However, in this case, she is right and Dan is just wrong.

“Threatening”, REALLY!!! That is almost funny. Let’s see, DeVaul provides housing, feedings, meetings, and work for these folks that no one else cares about for what, $300 – $500 a month and it is a sucessful site. Let’s see, what does it cost to put these same folks in the County Mental Health programs, homeless services, CAPS program, Social Service programs, etc. Who is running the most sucessful for these folks and giving them self esteem, purpose, and recovery. I would say this is a great investment of our tax dollars… That hopefully is not threatening to you!

Wait a minute.. maybe I misunderstand your position on things, but I thought you were somewhat “conservative.” If that is the case, who cares whether he’s making money at it or not. He’s providing a service in a manner that is certainly more efficient and less costly for taxpayers than anything government would run. I feel like you subscribe to certain beliefs when they effect others but when you’re the one impacted, you are not consistent.

Or have I misinterpreted where you generally lean on issues? My sincere apologies if I have.

What’s a conservative sposed to do? On the one hand you have a small business man doing the work that socialist governments should do, for no costs to the public by the way, being shut down due to onerous government meddling, then on the other hand it benefits homeless undeserving non producers that no conservative can’t stand to have in their neighborhood.

Oh the irony.

Roger, you have no credibility on this issue. You’re just like those people who buy homes near existing airports because the property is cheap and then begin the big whine and complain that there is a noisy unsafe airport near by and it needs to be moved. You and Christine and the other Johnny come latelys to that part of town are just out looking to increase your property values by leveling sunny acres regardless of the cost to the county or the homeless. Fortunately for you Gibson is in your back pocket and will spend whatever taxpayer money is necessary to enrich your pocketbooks.

Roger, I’m not sure if you’re trolling or just delusional. If you think Dan DeVaul is making a profit from running Sunny Acres, you’ve got a screw loose. The man himself barely lives to a higher standard than those he provided housing for. Maybe you think he keeps it in a giant silo somewhere so he can dive into it Scrooge McDuck style. If you’re going to argue against keeping Sunny Acres open, you’re going to have to find another rationale that actually holds water.

Perhaps you should invite Mr. Devaul over some time to enjoy a meal of Beef Wellington and crumpets. I’m sure if you spent some time with him, you’d find him quite enjoyable.


Go park in front of EX Councilwoman Christine Mulholland’s house! Maybe she will let you shower and give you a hot meal. Oh yea, I forgot, she said NOT IN MY NEIGBHORHOOD!!!

“Where do we go? There is no place for us” said Hunt.

Perhaps I can help…

1)Your first stop should be at one of the many shelters in the area. You can secure a bed and shower. after which you can;

2) Head to a local food bank. Get a good hot free meal. Your next stop should be;

3) The public library. Use the free computers to canvas for jobs on Craigslist. Both of you can find many jobs being offered along with a variety of rooms for rent. However, just to cover all your bases, you should next;

4) Go to the Employment office on Higuera. They are very helpful and would be happy to assist you in getting jobs.

Hope I could be of assistance.

I like your post. Not snarky or mean just informative.

Your post, while a good plan, falls apart if you read the article carefully. The transmission went out in their car, so action words like ‘stop’, ‘go’, and ‘head to’ don’t really help. They have nowhere to ‘go’ because the car won’t ‘go’. And at $3.79 / gallon, its very expensive to ‘go’ anywhere. A tank of gas would be 20% of their income for the month.

In this county, social services agencies are spread out so far that it is impractical to get to / from these different services. At least DeVaul had food, housing and employment in one place.

So you’re saying that it’s impossible to get around without a car? Due to that high cost of gas the bus would be a smart alternative even if their car was running.

I agree with you Pizmo…and as for ds_gray..if you read the article they said:

“The transmission went out on our car, my husband lost his job and after that happened we lost our place.

So it sounds like they have fixed their car since then because they also said:

which they are keeping parked behind a gas station in Morro Bay, among other places.

You see…AMONG OTHER PLACES….so it looks like their car works!!! And yes, if it doesnt its called a bus!

I pay more than 20% of my income on gas to go to work, yet I am able to provide housing, food, and things needed for my two daughters as a single parent. And yes, I have been without housing, but if you really want something you can get it. It only took me two weeks to get a job and a place to live. These things are not impossible.