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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SLOBIRD

So, does the City of SLO breakdown all the expenses for such projects as this one, Does SLO charge for the Christmas Parade, Cal Poly Open House, WOW at Cal Poly, the bar calls every nighte, etc. etc. etc. Know, but there is an opportunity to list these charged because there might be a Grant, Program or Handout that the City can apply for and get more money for their coffers, so they can spend more. Look, that City Attorney who just got a big fat raise, the Police, Community Development Director, Public Works, etc. all get paid for 40 hours of work a week regardless of what project they are working on (by the way, where is Miss Katie’s hours, oh yea, I forgot she is down South again). Shame on them for putting a price tab on this. These people need help and so do the businesses they are affecting.


Then, as for CAPSLO, Del Torres and Adam Hill you should really be ashamed of yourselves. You claim to be advocates for the homeless in our community and this is how you treat them, denying these people of needed services, meals, and assistance and want to take their last few dollars every month. I wouldn’t trust any of you either and you should all be made to go sleep in a creek bed and live on a $1000 or less a month and see how you like it. You are absolutely disguesting people. And yes, Ms Torres is the woman that Adam Hill cleaned out his personal bank accounts for when he left his wife and family. And you have the nerve to stand up and advocate for values, you are a slime.


JordanJ

It’s definitely common knowledge that they’re an item but she has claimed that she was never his mistress.

It’s also common knowledge that Hill cleaned out funds that rightfully were his wife’s share. According to the divorce records that he was only temporarily successful in illegally hiding from the public, he pulled some dirty deals on his wife and family but then, divorce records are always about, he said, she said, so who knows.


One thing for sure is that if Torres was running around with Hill while he was still married and living at home, then she was his mistress. Personally, if this is true, I agree that it is disgusting and since Torres denies almost everything that she doesn’t like, even when the truth is there for all to see, it’s hard to believe anything she say’s. It’s as if she is pathological. Just look at her posts here and then look at the facts, she is truly either pathological or very, very confused.


OnTheOtherHand

I don’t know the facts and I am not sure anyone not directly involved does. This is one of those cases where both sides have differing views on the same situation. You want to feel compassion for those who are down on their luck, but some of them created their own bad luck. Which ones are making the complaints here and how credible are they.


The Prado Day Center does try to do what they can for the homeless within a very limited budget but keeping a situation where numerous participants are either mentally unstable or substance abusers limits their effectiveness. Dee Torres, whatever her faults, has done a decent job in trying to run that zoo. I don’t know whether there are sufficient reason for the new parking policies but I would have to hear their side of the story and they probably have solid legal limitations in presenting the details to support it. While it does seem too intrusive for my taste, there’s an old saying “beggars can’t be choosers” which applies here. (Note to the PC crowd: I am not implying that the homeless are all “Beggars” in a derogatory sense. They are getting public funding through these programs and should expect it to come with strings attached.)


Whatever details exist of Torres’ relationship to Hill, her request for a retraction about the statement that she was his “girlfriend” could be justified by the implication in that word that she is still a “girl.” (See, I can be PC too!)


Bored Watcher

Hill recused himself from a Board of Supervisor’s vote on CDBG funds for a homeless organization earlier this month. I thought it odd he didn’t explain why he was stepping away from the dais; disclosure is usually required.

Was his recusal related to his relationship with Dee Torres or that he founded and/or Chair’s the organization receiving funds?

Hill portrays himself as a “Champion” for the homeless and the prince of social issues; how does this help if he can’t vote?

His conflict may not be financial gain for himself, but when I put someone in office for a certain purpose — I expect they will be able to participate in issues that I elected them for.

As for Torres, is she or anyone on her staff a licensed CPA or fiduciary of some kind that is bonded and insured and qualified to manage other people’s money?

This all smells like a portable toilet.


JB Bronson

To all and no one in particular: Dee Torres is not a one person band. From how how deep into CAP-SLO do her marching orders come? Ms. Torres is the person out front, and so is the easiest to want to attack, but she is not dancing alone to her own tune.


OnTheOtherHand

I don’t know either how independent the Homeless Program is from the rest of CAPSLO nor how much control Torres has over the finances. But I can assure you that there are probably more than 1 CPA — and numerous others with accounting degrees — in the Finance Dept. at CAPSLO.


Reality Check

“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.”


Regardless of all the chatter back and forth, I am appalled and outraged that a supposed non-profit would require homeless people to give their tiny income to the “case managers”. To give the excuse that taking the money will help the homeless build a fund to get back into housing may sound good, unless you’re trying to live on $1,000 or less a month. Putting 60% aside would be hard / probably impossible for anyone, much less people who are homeless and struggling to eat, gather daily essentials, keep their vehicle fueled and licensed and hold onto their few possessions. This is another example of trying to take basic freedoms away from the people.


I can understand all sorts of rules such as identity check, courteous behavior, no weapons, no banned substances. In this case, I completely agree with the homeless who refuse to pay a ransom to CAPSLO just to have a safe place to park overnight.


As a side note, who goes to work for an organization with a mission of housing the homeless, but is afraid of homeless people? If one is unprepared to deal with the realities of the customers they’ll be serving, don’t go into that line of work.


RU4Real

These FLAKES are flocking to this area in droves…It’s about time to “shut the door” on all these “out of area” freeloaders…There are TRULY needy local people who could use a hand up, but most of the tweekers that are coming here from other States & Counties should be send back to their “places of origin”…Those areas should be responsible for caring for their own FLAKES, I’m sick of seeing these druggies all over town…Another issue is, they all seem to have dogs…I’m not against dogs, but as a dog owner myself, I KNOW from experience how expensive it is to take care of a pet….Again, these people are showing a careless disregard having animals with them while out “panhandling” for drugs/booze…It’s disgusting…


The Gimlet Eye

Sounds like a police state tactic to me.


unlisted

Why does CAPSLO get blamed because the city wants to spend nearly 580 hours at nearly $140 an hour nitpicking a six month pilot program? That $80,000 could be used to pay for nearly 100 months of rent in a studio apartment.


Cindy

I’m not defending this intrusive program as I’ve already stated that this is “nanny gubmint” at it’s worse in my opinion.


BUT, I’ve got to say something about those outrageous, exaggerated fees that the city has posted as an added expense to this pilot program. Is there any justification for that? Does it even make sense? There are going to be 5 cars parked legally over night and suddenly it will cost how much extra in police services, lawyers, administrators etc. The city of SLO is out of control with their spending. They aren’t even dealing with anything close to reality in my opinion, it seems more about everybody sticking their hands in the pot for any excuse possible. They should all be fired, FIRED and FIRED, kicked the heck down the stairs and right out the door. Why do we all put up with this? People need to do what Paso is about to do, make a clean sweep and wipe the gravy off the pork butt’s.


racket

Cindy: I agree.


It could almost be characterized as the City riding on the back’s of the homeless.


The City Attorney is going to need $17,000, the Public Works is going to need $11,000, the “CCD” is going to need $27,000, … all for the ability to permit 5 homeless cars to continue to be homeless for six months. Friggin’ ridiculous.


Cindy

Hahah, I started at the top of the list and wondered what public works would do that would take 120 hours to “facilitate the start up” of this program? I know that the program requires a porta-potty, something that Torres claims that CAPSLO will be in charge of and paying for. Will SLO county works supervise the first 120 hours of porta-potty use? Maybe they will check to see that there are no pot holes in the 5 parking spaces? I mean really and the city attorney, I guess it will take 3 FULL WEEKS to write up this program and declare it legal? As for the PD, I should think it would require less of their time since there will be 5 less vehicles to ticket or maybe since they won’t be charging them $350.00 a ticket, they figure they will need to make up that revenue someplace? HA!


If I were Dee Torres and if I was sincere about my belief in my program, I would publicly tell the city Officials to “go pick someone elses pockets”.


Paperboys

Tammy, thinking outside the box is what Dan DeVaul did for years and look where it’s gotten him.

But you’re right, I don’t believe government will ever be able to “solve” the homeless problem. That’s because one has to first define what “solve” actually means.

Does it mean that EVERYONE would have a roof over their heads, a home they can call their own? That’s not likely in a county where the median home price is more than $350,000.

Or does it mean they build enough temporary shelters to get them inside at night and then kick them out onto the streets in the morning? Given government’s tendency to have its costs go up year after year with no end or cap in sight, we would probably soon run out of money for such a program and then face budget cuts and closures.

And just where would this money come from in the first place? Do any local politicians have the intestinal fortitude to cut police or fire department budgets (the two costliest departments in every town) to fund these homeless services? Probably not. People want to feel safe in their homes and communities and frankly, one of the biggest threats to that are homeless people who have turned to stealing and robbing in order to survive.

Just how do we define success for a problem that you admit (and I agree with) will never go away?

I also seriously doubt that spending $12 million on a “homeless campus” like the Homeless Services Oversight Committee’s 10-year plan would do, is the end-all solution either.


RU4Real

Why can’t these FLAKES pay Dan a stipend to park at his place? Maybe do a little work out there as well & try to get clean & sober in the process…


Tammy

There are homeless people in every City, State and community. We have had homeless people with us since the beginning of time and will always have people living among us who are homeless. That is a fact.

Having said that, it is my personal opinion, that all cities and community governments should have or be required to have something set aside for those who are homeless. I would feel much better supporting an established place for the homeless to camp, than watching our government leaders squander tax payer dollars or making settlements with the likes of Lisa Solomon, or pay huge pensions to those that no longer give back or serve.

It is inhumane to criminalize homelessness and make it impossible for those to simply exist, for they have a right to exist, no matter how they choose, so as they do not commit crimes against person or property.

Look, homelessness is not caused by any one condition. The face of a homeless person is NOT the same face as the sterotyped drunken dirty man or bag lady. Most of those who are homeless are women and children, cohabitating with others (families doubling up). Many do play by the rules society sets. But there will always be those who don’t.

I read so many post from people angry about government hand-outs and having to pay more taxes. What I don’t read are about creative solutions……to problems which aren’t going to go away. This issue is NOT going to go away. Period! Now what? Do we keep kicking the can down the road? Do we keep fighting, bitching and pointing fingers? Or do we NOT look toward the tax payers for funding, but we come up with creative solutions based on capitalistic principles. It is called social enterprise, and I have been reading and talking about this for years.

Social Enterprise is when an entity (government, non-profit etc…) uses capitalism and it’s principles to create a good or service, maximizing it’s profits to solve or fund a social ill.

It is that simple. So for all those leaders and government experts, taking from taxpayers IS NOT THE ONLY OPTION. But, you have to think, think outside the box, get creative, and actually do it. I’m thinking this is what you’re getting paid for.


The Gimlet Eye

The Soviets would have rounded them up and sent them out to work on “collective farms.” Forced labor is what it was.


I don’t advocate anything nearly so draconian, but at the same time, able-bodied people must work to earn their keep.


When we look around, do we see any lack of jobs to do? Hardly!


Solution, open a work camp. That has been mentioned before in this forum. Those able-bodied people who can work, must work to earn their daily keep. We did it during the Great Depression, we can do it during the Great Depression II.


kettle
zaphod

Full employment


willieslo

It is entertaining to see all theses people whining for more rights, accomodations and funding.

Many families are struggling to make ends meet necessitating the use of their credit cards (borrowed money) day after day because of cuts and inflation.

When I get enough funds to make any kind of donation, I will donate to hard working-struggling (non-whining) people long before considering any of these folks.


Ted Slanders

willieslo,


Albeit, that it would be even more entertaining for you to see a little disheveled homeless child on Prado Road too? Sure it would! That’s what makes the “willieslo’s” of this world make such deplorable and ungodly statements that they do!


Kevin Rice

http://www.adamhill.us/about-adam-hill/


“[Adam Hill] also serves as the founding and current chair of the Homeless Services Oversight Council, and the chair of the capital campaign for the new homeless services center.”


Wonder if he’ll correct his campaign site?


fhill123

Why should he change it? True or not is irrelevant in politics as long as it looks good.