Local man barred from homeless services
June 12, 2012
By KAREN VELIE
Following the discovery of a San Luis Obispo man’s bicycle on Prado Road after a 4 p.m. curfew, homeless day center staff barred the man from having meals or taking showers at the center.
While San Luis Obispo and homeless services claim they have modeled their programs to end homelessness after Santa Barbara, they are in fact very different, with San Luis Obispo having a long list of rules required to be followed in order to receive services.
As of June 1, San Luis Obispo homeless services started enforcing a variety of additional rules for the homeless to follow including not riding their bikes legally on roadways within an eighth of a mile of the center. It is an issue attorney Stew Jenkins says violates their constitutional rights.
To deprive someone of public benefits when they are doing something perfectly legal is a violation of due process and cruel and unusual punishment, Jenkins said.
SLO City Council members and homeless services officials are backing a variety of strict regulations homeless are required to abide by. Requirements include not riding a bike or walking on Prado Road between 4 p.m. and 8 a.m., and signing away rights against searches of their persons and vehicles upon demand.
If caught violating one of the center’s off site rules, homeless people are then denied services such as showers, lunches and laundry facilities for varying amounts of time that can lead to permanent ineligibility.
Homeless for the past three years, Randal Reed was recently banned for a week from the Prado Day Center after his bike was spotted on Prado Road in the early evening.
Raised in Cayucos, Reed worked in the construction industry, married, bought a home and adopted a child from Russia. His life began to spiral downward when the company Reed had worked with for more than a decade folded about four years ago, and he was unable to get another job.
For the past three years, he has lived in a tent next to a river in San Luis Obispo. After he was diagnosed with cancer, he stayed in an RV on Prado Road for a short time with a friend. He moved back to the river when Prado Day Center officials said they would not allow those who sleep in vehicles on Prado Road to receive services.
Last week, a business owner offered Reed a job welding at a Pismo Beach hotel. He started his job on Monday, but his bike was spotted on Prado Road last week after the center’s curfew, while he was getting ready for his first day of work and taking a bath in the creek.
SLO City Council members support the aggressive ticketing of the homeless and the requirement to give up civil rights in order to receive services to keep the city from having “’Open to Homeless’ signs at the gates.”
Councilman Andrew Carter said that because the rule against being on Prado Road is not new, it should be followed to discourage homeless from bothering business owners.
“It would seem to have been designed to discourage loitering before and after Day Center operating hours,” Carter said in an email. “Given the problems that have been taking place on Prado Road, in particular the impact on neighboring properties and businesses, it seems reasonable that the Day Center would want to enforce the rule simply in an effort to be a good neighbor to those properties and businesses.”
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 addition, the attorneys contend the rules currently being enforced could eventually lead to further lawsuits against homeless services and the city.
“An unconstitutional condition occurs when the government requires waiver of a constitutional right as a condition of receiving state benefits,” Jenkins said.
“Cities and counties, which are simply subdivisions of the state, are governed by these same limitations against infringing the individual rights of citizens as a condition of extending a public benefit,” Jenkins said. “A state, county or city government cannot insulate itself from this basic constitutional rule by delegating its governmental functions to a non-profit corporation that the government funds with the public’s money.”