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.

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.


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MarkJames

Looking at those e-mails from the woman who is heading this program is alarming. She appears to have some serious character inadequacies and can’t address these issues professionally or even coherently. She is highly emotional, she is in complete denial of the facts and she is immature and even childish. She is clearly incompetent. She would do best to get help for herself before she attempts to help anyone else.

This is of deep concern that she is heading up a program like this.


DeeTorres

Here are a couple of the the facts:


The Prado Safe Parking Program will not cost $80,000, this is a figure that the City reported in regards to City business, I can’t speak to that as it has nothing to do with our program. Our program has received $7,500 which is being spent on monitoring equipment, portable toilet rental, other minor supplies and minimal staffing costs. I personally will not and have not received any compensation from this program.


The Parking Program does require participation in case management. A strong component of case management is budgeting and saving. We encourage families to save up to 60% and individuals to save up to 70% of their monthly income for permanent housing. This money is saved by them and is always “their” money. They can pull their money out of the program at any time as it is theirs, That being said we often have people who save less than what we encourage them to save, some come to us with no income and obviously 60% of 0 is 0. We use the percentages as guidelines and work with each individual depending on their circumstances. I nor any member of my staff have ever been a payee for a client and CAPSLO Homeless Services never receives any money from the program participants.


The Parking Program has not been “rejected” it hasn’t even begun yet. We are hoping to begin mid-June and are doing our best to outreach and work with people who are interested in having a safe place to park temporarily while working toward permanent housing solutions.


Again, I’ll state that the programs I oversee are transparent and if you have any real questions/concerns you can always e-mail me at dtorres@capslo.org.


MarkJames

Good Grief ! You are indeed as naive, irresponsible and childish as it gets. Of course those added fees have to do with your program. You’re not an autonomous citizen running your own show. For every action there is a reaction. Your program costs the tax payers funds outside of what YOU PERSONALLY DO. You’re representing a tax payer funded program, why does an adverage citizen have to explain this to you? WTF (excuse me but I mean it) WTF?


To even suggest that these fees have nothing to do with your program suggests that you’re not just out of touch but you’re inept and that is putting it politely.


To the people of SLO County. This is you’re government at work, take a good look.


The Gimlet Eye

To hell with your “case management.” This is not a POLICE STATE!


MostlyH2O

How pathetic that you choose to defend yourself on a blog rather than through your actions. Not only have you failed the homeless in this community but you lie about it to pass the buck. Do us all a favor and quit your job. Better yet, stay around and get fired so we don’t have to pay your pension. You’re terrible at what you do and if your actions cannot speak for themselves then there’s no reason to believe your words.


Kevin Rice

Yesterday’s Santa Maria Times article:

http://santamariatimes.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/elections/candidate_bio/jobs-economic-development-focus-in-slo-county-race/article_70524fe2-a7c1-11e1-85a4-0019bb2963f4.html


BIG WHOPPER:

“Homelessness services is another issue Hill takes to heart. He is chairman of the Homeless Services Oversight Committee and the capital campaign for the new homeless services center.”


Is CCN the only news player that vets “press release” stories?


Disgusted

So many mistakes in this article. Hill was not a prof., doesn’t chair the BOS or HSOC and wasn’t the building in AG and GB along Oak Park “smart” growth?


Kevin Rice

Stupid Hill thought you could create a Tribune account and “Like” comments without being noticed. He quit using the account when he found out otherwise.


‘AdamHill’ Tribune account:

http://disqus.com/mcclatchy-2bb90c015000e0b9214f4dfc464d616c/


I think I like best where he ‘Liked’ the “MORRO BELL” post on the Morro Bay’s highest salaries story. Is this the same Adam Hill that negotiated a $250,000 salary for air pollution control officer Larry Allen?!?


janbk

One thing is for sure, Adam Hill is a liar and smooth talker, he will say one thing to get free publicity and media coverage and when back in his office he lies, laughs at ” Scum” on our streets. I hope a recent tape done while speaking to him on these issues makes it way to the media. It is alarming and scary how he really thinks and what he says. He is a failure to the people and is the one who wanted to get more money from the poor, ill, dying, disabled while parking at the airport. It was Mr. Hill who we are told was the one who decided to get the money from the disabled especially our wounded warriors coming home. Vote him out of office. I am told by one of his girl ” Fridays” that he has some dark secrets that are going to come out. I hope so he is a typical politician who does not know what it is like, to be ill, disabled or without. He never served his Nation in a time of War he is in my opinion a Coward.


fhill123

Jan


Politicians tell lies? I am disappointed to hear that. Vote out incumbents. At least give someone else a chance at the public trough.


Cindy

In all fairness, I’ve heard both positive and negative reports in the past about Dee Torres and her work with the homeless. I might be mistaken but it seems that she was a proponent for Sunny Acres and had supported them over the years. She did comment here last month about the issue with managing the income of the homeless who elect to park legally on Prado and she indicated that CAPSLO was not taking any money from them but simply requiring that the homeless designate a % of their income to a savings account which would later serve to provide a permanent home for them, now I hear that CAPSLO will “take 70%” of the homeless income? I don’t think that is an accurate statement and Dee Torres would have done well to respond, rather than to complain about CCN bringing out past “FACTS” that Torres doesn’t like. Clear the air Torres and quit complaining, you put yourself in this position and frankly, right now, you appear to be highly INCOMPETENT. Shame on you and your condescending program. You all deserve to be sued for the blatant violation of the rights of the disenfranchised, in my opinion.


This is “nanny gubmint” at its worse. Come down off your high horse Dee and get an education, the last thing many of these people have is their dignity, seems that you would attempt to take that from them as well. Yes I know, you don’t have a clue what I’m talking about and that is what makes you INCOMPETENT.


DeeTorres

Here is the actual e-mail response to Ms. Velie’s request for further information regarding the PRADO SAFE PARKING PROGRAM.


From: Dee Torres

Date: May 23, 2012 12:43:06 AM PDT

To: Karen Velie

Subject: FW: enough nonsense


Ms. Velie,


I was informed by one of my staff members that you were attempting to contact me today to answer some questions. This staff member is very familiar with your inaccurate reporting and instructed you to e-mail me.


This e-mail is in response to your request for information. If you choose to print another inaccurate, malicious story about me and our Safe Parking Program, please do not lie to your readers by stating something like “Dee Torres was contacted but did not reply” or anything similar to this, instead please print the following:


On March 22nd your blog posted a story written by you “SLO Homeless Plan facing legal battle”, that contained many fallacious and malicious statements about the Prado Day Center Safe Parking Program, and myself. In an attempt to mitigate some of the damage created by the lies printed in the story I sent you two e-mails (April 27th and May 1st ) highlighting inaccuracies, half truths, innuendo and outright lies, and asked for a retraction. In response to the first e-mail you made excuses and defended the lies that you printed ignoring all evidence to the contrary (the SLO City Council meeting is video taped and a simple viewing exposes the lies in the story). In the second response it seemed you were attempting to elicit sympathy by mentioning your personal family issues but promised to watch the tape and get back to me.


To date you have yet to “get back” to me and/or correct the many distortions you wrote. Unfortunately but not surprisingly, your lies confused many readers of your blog who in turn started anonymously blogging more lies about me, the Prado program and even other people who are not directly associated with the program. This forced me to take to the blogs using my real name. I gave bloggers the same facts I gave to you and actually received very positive responses from bloggers who seemed to appreciate honesty, and the negativity stopped.


For a wide variety of reasons, including the many inaccuracies printed March 22nd, the refusal to correct the inaccuracies after the fact, countless other inaccuracies and malicious, misleading, half or no truth stories, to name just a few, I do not consider you a reputable reporter and will keep my distance from you completely. I will not subject my staff, clients, programs, or anyone else for that matter, to your malice and your lies by participating in the shameless sham you call journalism.


Obviously, Ms. Velie, you have no concern for how your phony stories (most community members and leaders I know and respect refer to as propaganda and/or agenda driven hit pieces) actually affect people, including my clients, my staff, my children, and the larger community with whom I work. One might think that you would exempt the truly less fortunate from your obvious need to feel empowered by tearing people down, but alas, I continually see from your stories that this is not the case.


Sincerely,

Dee Torres


KatieEvans

“In the second response it seemed you were attempting to elicit sympathy by mentioning your personal family issues but promised to watch the tape and get back to me. ”


I don’t think Karen was seeking to solicit anything from you. It seems to me that she probably needed time to watch the tape again and confirm her accuracy or inaccuracy. That is something she probably wasn’t able to do at the time that you contacted her.


Wasn’t Karen out of town for the last month? Didn’t her mother die and isn’t her brother in a hospital and expected not to live after a horrendous car accident? Either way, seems like she is back and has confirmed the accuracy of the original article.


Scarlet

Dee stop. Just stop. You are not doing yourself any favors. I only know of you from this article and even I am questioning your grasp on reality and ability to effectively lead this program.


fhill123

Yeah the truth hurts. Doesn’t it?


DeeTorres

Before this turns into a crazy blog fest please read the actual letter which I wrote to Ms. Velie in response to her first inaccurate story wrote about the Prado Safe Parking Pilot Program.


Ms Velie,


For a little over a month I’ve been debating whether to respond to the inflammatory and dishonest manner in which your website covers many homeless issues and my role as homeless services director. After much thoughtful consideration I’ve decided that it is more important to tell the truth and run the very likely risk of being a target for more of more lies than to allow such lies and distortion to stand. Let me be clear: your article of March 22 “SLO Homeless plan facing legal battle,” is so insulting, biased and inaccurate, that I am demanding a retraction and an apology.


You state in your article that I am a proponent “of the more aggressive ticketing” of homeless people camping in their vehicles. This is a lie. I made no such statement. I was asked by the City Council and city staff to explain the parameters of the pilot program. That is what I spoke about.


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. Included in this $18,000 total is video monitoring equipment, portable toilet rental/cleaning, food/ bottled water for clients, and very minimal line staff to oversee the program. Contrary to what many of your readers have been led to believe as evidenced by their comments which are strewn around your site, I myself have not and will not receive 1 penny of income from this program.


You refer to me as “the girlfriend” of Supervisor Adam Hill, which I find to be a demeaning characterization. I have been involved in homeless services in this community for close to 20 years. To minimize my role and add insinuations and suggestions about my personal life, is deplorable.


You state that Supervisor “Hill asked the council not to heed public comments by members of the public who oppose Torres’ proposal because the issue of homelessness is too complicated for most lay people to understand.” This too is a lie. It does not even come close to approximating what Supervisor Hill said in his comments to the council. Furthermore, he was the first speaker in public comment, and no one opposed the pilot program. You have deliberately distorted this.


You then go on in the rest of your article characterizing the SLO PD and the City Council in more deliberately distorted ways, omitting all of the substance of the discussion in any manner that might cast them in a positive and thoughtful light.


It is sad that you would choose to focus your sensationalistic lens on a topic that is as complicated and important as the plight of homeless individuals in our community. I have no idea what your motives could be. What I do know is that your readers have been deceived and this needs to be rectified immediately.


Thank you in advance.


Dee Torres


Cindy

What a crack up!


Dee (per the video), Adam Hill is saying exactly what CCN say’s that he said. He is telling the council how complicated this item is and how it is very difficult to understand what’s best for the homeless and that he simply agrees with the program as it is proposed and so should they, because he say’s so. He also is very aware that there is opposition and addresses it right here on this video. What I see here from you is the typical DENY, DENY, DENY. This is a common theme with people who don’t like being exposed, we’ve all heard it 1000 times before. While you deny the factual reporting of CCN, you have proved nothing that CCN wrote as being inaccurate. You might not like it but that doesn’t make it any less THE TRUTH. Do you see the $80K cost for the program taken right out of the staff report, dear? How is it that you’re not aware what your program will cost the taxpayers?


By the way, the fact that Adam Hill is your boyfriend does matter, it goes to the credibility of the program that you propose. If you don’t want your relationship brought up, them don’t use YOUR BOYFRIEND to back up your plans where the spending of our tax $$ are concerned.


GROW UP DEE.


Paperboys

Sorry Dee, but if you’re involved in a relationship with a man and you’re not married, he’s your boyfriend. It’s not a “demeaning characterization.” A demeaning characterization would be mistress, sex kitten, main squeeze, f*** buddy, or love bunny.

If you are not involved romantically, then you are due an apology but if you are, then boyfriend (or girlfriend) is accurate and not demeaning.

If the story IS full of lies and you’ve demanded a retraction and been refused, then you should sue for libel.

My advice to you is not to let stories that you believe to be inaccurate or outright lies stand. Stand up for yourself and answer these critics. Don’t let lies — either falsehoods or lies by omission or exaggeration — stand. Respond and defend yourself. This is a rare chance to do this.


Mr. Holly

Oh! Dan Duvall where are you. How much easier and more efficient it would have been to assist Mr. Duvall at Sunny Acres. With the assistance of the county a makeshift RV park could be established at his location. CAPSLO and HSOC are considered by many to be the most expensive and least efficient of local government agencies. Why did Adam Hill step down from the chair of HSOC? That is an easy question to answer because they have done nothing for the homeless. Their biggest achievement is keeping many many government employees on the payroll. These 2 programs for the most part is the fleecing of local taxpayers. There is a great need to assist the homeless and that is what needs to be done, not to assist government employees.


inmyopinion

Please let me be first, Oh, the continued deception and fleecing of the San Luis Obispo County Taxpayers. Its hard to live in these times with barley enough to get by on. Those that are living fat expect others to be able to have money, be ready for hard times. Sorry people that is not so for alot of those out there struggling to survive. Having lost their jobs from failing companies that were melted to the ground in this economy. All to be met with a reception of looking down their nose at you and scoffing at the fact you need help. Makes you want to crawl into a hole. And the people that promise to be advocates and defend the helpless and homeless ?? Our two “Advocates” in the article above have been connected in more ways than one for years and the alure of the taxpayers dime and expense account keeps them fighting for their positions and want more. And what of the carnage left behind ? Shame on them (the homeless) for being in the way. !! JMO Thewe two are a real piece of work.


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