Alleged homeless advocates accused of stealing from the poor

February 4, 2013

Cliff AndersonKeeping them homeless

By KAREN VELIE, JOSH FRIEDMAN and DANIEL BLACKBURN

(Editor’s note: This is the first in a series about San Luis Obispo County Homeless Services and the non-profit that manages the program. See Cliff Anderson’s struggles at the bottom of this story.)

Cliff Anderson lost his home in 2008 when a fire broke out in his apartment. Almost four years later and after making $41,420 in payments to remain in Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo’s case management, Anderson still has no home.

“They said they are going to get me into housing any day,” Anderson said last week.

However, he remains in the Maxine Lewis Homeless Shelter — and nearly all of the money he’s entrusted to CAPSLO’s case management appears to have disappeared. CAPSLO’s administration requires homeless who sleep in the shelter or a car parked in their lot to make the program the payee for their government checks. Case management then keeps 50 to 70 percent of a client’s money with claims it is placed into a secure account to be used in the future to pay for housing.

Anderson’s situation with CAPSLO is not unique. CalCoastNews has spent two years investigating CAPSLO and interviewing people the quasi-public agency claims to serve. CCN has learned that CAPSLO has engaged in practices that have homeless people giving the partnership much of the public assistance money they receive, but getting little or nothing in return.

In Anderson’s case, he has signed over his disability benefits to case management for the last three and a half years, Social Security records show.

CAPSLO administration claims collected money belongs to the client, and is being saved in order to get them into housing. There is no charge for staying at the shelter.

In Social Security benefits, Anderson brings in about $970 a month; CAPSLO permits him to keep $400 per month which leaves case management owing him about $20,000.

In addition, his case manager charges Anderson $25 every few months to run credit checks to determine if he qualifies for housing, and he is required pay about $37 a month for others to manage his money.

The federal government requires that entities trying to become payees for disabled clients receiving SSI attend special meetings where Social Security officials inform them that people on SSI must spend the benefits they receive. Disability money is required to be expended each month on necessities, not saved in the bank. People on SSI can only save a total of $2,000 out of their SSI payments.

And each year, the entities, known as payees, have to confirm to the Social Security Administration that recipients have not saved more than $2,000. It is considered fraud to misreport.

An SSI recipient or payee is responsible for returning payments to the federal government after the $2,000 limit has been reached. That means CAPSLO or Family Ties, a company retained by the agency, owes the Social Security Administration approximately $37,000 for misreporting Anderson’s account.

But CAPSLO says it doesn’t owe anything. CAPSLO Chief Operating Officer Jim Famalette claims that CAPSLO’s case managers are not the payees taking Anderson’s money. Anderson and the people like him are working with Family Ties, not CAPSLO, according to Famalette.

“We do not act as a payee for those funds,” Famalette said in an email to CalCoastNews.

But Lisa Niesen, Family Ties’ owner, said her company is not the payee getting the SSI payments for CAPSLO’s homeless clients. In any event, most of the client accounts contain minimal balances, she said.

“None of the clients we have from case management have more than a few thousand dollars in their account, and most have just $20 to $30,” Niesen said.

Several of CAPSLO’s homeless clients said they do not have an agreement with Family Ties. Niesen said her company’s agreement is with CAPSLO, not the case management clients.

SSI records for Anderson list Family Ties as the recipient for his money, but when homeless clients have questions about their accounts, they are required to deal with CAPSLO case managers.

In the past two years, homeless clients of CAPSLO have approached CalCoastNews with allegations that CAPSLO case managers often refuse to return all client monies when they leave the program or sometimes give a small percentage of what they are owed. If clients complain, they are barred from receiving CAPSLO homeless services.

Several current and former case managers have also said that they believe money is being embezzled from the clients’ accounts.

For years, CAPSLO administrators have refused to respond to allegations of missing funds, or to answer questions about what happens to a client’s money if they die.

On Friday, Famalette responded, saying that the allegations against a CAPSLO manager are a “baseless innuendo not worthy of a response.”

Meanwhile, CAPSLO is working to get approval for a 200-bed shelter and an overnight parking program. The parking program eventually would accommodate 200 vehicles.

Dee Torres asks the San Luis Obispo City Council to approve more aggressive treatment of the homeless who do not enter case management.

Dee Torres asks the San Luis Obispo City Council to approve more aggressive treatment of the homeless who do not enter case management.

In March, the San Luis Obispo City Council entertained CAPSLO’s proposal to increase ticketing of homeless who sleep in their vehicles without agreeing to participate in case management, which requires giving CAPSLO case management a portion of their income.

Proponents of the more aggressive ticketing include San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill. Hill is in a relationship with CAPSLO’s Homeless Services Coordinator Dee Torres. Torres and Hill did not respond to requests for comment.

When Torres brought the proposal to the SLO City Council, Hill asked the council not to heed comments by members of the public who oppose Torres’ proposal. He said that the issue of homelessness is too complicated for most lay people to understand.

Torres argued for the change, claiming that CAPSLO had already managed to get five homeless clients in the parking program into housing. One client, Gulf War veteran Kimberly Frey-Griffin, said the claim was not accurate. Though she did get into housing, she said it was in spite of CAPSLO.

From December 2011 through May 2012, Frey-Griffin paid her case manager $25 to $50 a week she earned from cleaning houses. After more than five months in the program, on her own, she found and paid to get herself into housing. When she asked for her approximately $700 back, her case manager handed her a check for $133, and then added Frey-Griffin to the CAPSLO list of housing success stories.

Nevertheless, public officials throughout the county, many of whom sit on the CAPSLO Board of Directors, are the first to applaud CAPSLO for its work with the homeless.

 

Cliff Anderson’s struggles

He is a shell of a man, 6 feet tall and only 158 pounds, afflicted with severe edema and varicose veins, he lives in unrelenting agony.

He spends his days exposed to the elements, weathered beyond his years, trying to navigate the dangerous and homeless world of violent drug addicts, the mentally ill and those looking to steal what little he has.

He is a 69-year-old San Luis Obispo native who worked as a butcher most of his life, spending about a decade employed at the United Meat Market in San Luis Obispo.

It is a difficult life at the Maxine Lewis Shelter. Staff awaken clients at 6 a.m. to do chores, and then require the clients to leave by 7 a.m. Cliff Anderson often sits by the railroad tracks waiting for the 10 a.m. bus to the Prado Day Center, where he is exposed to the elements because CAPSLO management contends there is not enough money available to open the warming center.

The Prado warming center has been open only four days this year, despite a $25,000 donation last year from PG&E to benefit energy efficiency at Prado. The money was spent installing an air conditioning unit in the staff office area.

Cliff Anderson's foot

Cliff Anderson’s foot

Anderson must be waiting outside the shelter each night at 5 p.m., even though check-in does not start until 6 p.m. Once inside, clients are not permitted to watch television except on Saturday and Sunday evenings. Conversely, the North County shelter allows their clients to watch television each evening until 10 p.m.

Anderson’s cowboy boots are worn and uncomfortable. His feet are swollen and covered in veins. Anderson said a doctor had told him to get new shoes. But he has no money.

Nevertheless, his numerous requests to case managers — some witnessed by CalCoastNews reporters — to provide some of his own money to purchase a new pair of shoes have been rebuffed or ignored. Other homeless clients of CAPSLO tell similar stories of their medical needs not being met because their case managers refuse to provide the clients own money to do so.

 

Keeping Them Homeless, the series.


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SLOBIRD

Anyone that would donate ONE RED AMERICAN PENNY to CAPSLO until this matter is investigated and resolved is contributing to the abuse and misuse of these funds. This is one of the despicable stories I have ever read involving the Homeless. I pray that this is investigated and found to be misinterpreted or mishandled. I pray that this is not how the Homeless are really being treated because God help us all, what are they doing to the Homeless in the big cities. I cannot believe that during these hard times people that we trust to help the poor could do this. Brother Ted, where are you, these people (if you want to call them that) are abusing the Beatitudes. We need your prayers!


doggin

This county does not gun control, it needs corrupt politician control. If these details are in fact true it is beyond conceivable they have done this. Sad thing is these people are so arrogant they actually think their doing the “Lay people” some sort of favor. If ever this county need to be rocked hard by the Attorney general or FBI, this is their open invitation.


myword

Just a small caveat:


Do these individuals who fork over 30 – 70% of their disability/social security funds for “services” for apromise of a saving-for-their-one-day-home-plan ever get a monthly/quarterly or even yearly statement which shows the funds deposited on their behalf and the disbursements (perhaps shoes) complete with their balance in their account? Besides this basic responsibility of a trustee, these folks pay a handsome fee for the privilege of having Capslo(?) keep track of their funds.


Has anyone EVER quit the program with more than $1000, no matter how long Capslo/Family Ties has been their payee and no matter how many $$$ have gone through them?


So basic questions and simple accounting necessary: Do the honorable thing, Capslo and be transparent. Show us the years of statements issued to your homeless clients along with your accounting for deposits and disbursements of same.


If it is incompetence and mismanagement it will show – if it is out and out theft it will come out. The

ball is in your corner.


mbactivist1

Transparency does not seem to be a goal for the CAPSLO crew. I know someone who submitted a valid public records request to them months ago, and they refused to comply. At first, they claimed they were not a public agency, so they were exempt. It was pointed out to them, in writing, that they ARE subject to the California Public Records Act.


Under the Public Records Act, CAPSLO is a public entity. California law considers a private entity to be a public body under the California Public Records Act if it:

1. Was created, directly or indirectly, by a public agency, AND

2. Performs a public function.

California statute 54952 is frequently cited in documents that explain this aspect of the enforcement of the Public Records Act.


CAPSLO clearly meets both of the above-cited criteria. It was clearly created, directly or indirectly by a public agency, and obviously performs a public function. However, even when the above facts were pointed out to them, they continued to refuse to comply with the records request.


Their friends in high places continue to protect them, meaning that we probably need the State to come in here and deal with this


Kevin Rice

Very good explanation. Now, we the People, need to construct a thoughtful records request. If disclosure is withheld, then we can proceed to the D.A.


HML

Here are some dots to connect: name the two city councilmen who pushed for the criminalization and surveillance of the homeless. Answer: John Ashbaugh and Dan Carpenter. Ashbaugh sits on the CAPSLO board, accepted gifts of wine from Adam Hill, and recently called for attorneys Jenkins and Rizzo to donate half of their court-approved fees to CAPSLO. Carpenter has been on the board of Friends of Prado Day Center and volunteers at CAPSLO. Now let’s see what these two are up to these days: Ashbaugh intends to annoint, I mean appoint, Jeff Aranguena (the SLO Democratic Party’s money-man) to the city council this month; Carpenter intends to annoint, I mean appoint, Kevin Rice to the city council this month as payback for getting Carpenter appointed to the council two years ago. This scandal will never end if Ashbaugh and Carpenter appoint their cronies/puppets to the city council. Aranguena and Rice will pay for their appointment with their silence and cooperation, as in cooperation with scaring the homeless into case management or out of the city. This madness must end! The mayor and city council members had better appoint someone not compromised by their allegiances to Ashbaugh and Carpenter, who have shown themselves to be two of the most aggressive council members against the homeless.


myword

TO HML [4:28pm]


Just a small point. Kevin Rice has asked for the special election, has been a keen supporter for the homeless [please even note the recent posts by Mr. Rice calling for action] so I don’t think he can be lumped together with the present council.


Election is key.


HML

You mean Kevin “clean ’em out of the creek” Rice? His big solution to the homeless situation is to move people out of the creek and onto some dirt field far away from services they need. If Dan Carpenter appoints him to the council as payback for making that video that got Carpenter appointed to the council in 2010, he will take the same conservative, Republican, Tea Party approach that Carpenter does. Basically, Carpenter and Rice will work together as a team and vote to penalize the homeless, scare them out of the city, and deny attorneys Jenkins and Rizzo the money approved for them by Judge Crandall.


Kevin Rice

You and I need to talk. I heartily endorse Judge Crandall’s lawful and proper opinion. Yes, we should not have people living in the shadows in the creek. People should not be ashamed or embarrassed, and we need to find solutions that do not force them to live “out of sight, out of mind”. (805) 602-2616 if you have further uncertainties.


HML

Then why did you support Dan Carpenter’s approach to ticketing the homeless and fighting the homeless in court, Mr. Rice? Why did you endorse Dan Carpenter at a city council meeting and vote for him on your ballot at the podium (it’s on video)? Why did you propose moving the homeless to a dirt patch at the edge of the city during your campaign? It seems to me that you would just be part of the problem in this growing scandal, especially when Carpenter’s ties and Ashbaugh’s ties to CAPSLO come to light. Sadly, you are just one more insider angling to get on the council but you have no idea how to reform CAPSLO.


Kevin Rice

You are seriously misinformed. I spoke in opposition to the city’s practices, ordinances and pursuing litigation on March 20, May 1, July 10, Sept 18, Oct 2, Nov 7 and at a special parking forum last year. Were you there?


OCT 2 MINUTES:

Kevin Rice, San Luis Obispo, is concerned with pushing this ordinance through. He has trouble criminalizing people who sleep in their cars. C4


NOV 7 MINUTES:

Kevin Rice, San Luis Obispo, commented on rule of law and ordinances passed by the Council. The laws and ordinances have no mercy; Council has duty to have mercy in the construction of the ordinances.


Tomorrow, I will speak in support of a democratic election, not an appointment, just as I did in 2010. Will you join me?


Mr. Holly

Oh where oh were are John Ashbaugh and Adam Hill? These two have proven to be on top of these issues in the past and have never been shy about adding their 2 cents to the issue. Come out, come out from wherever you are.


myword

However wrong-headed and cruel I thought the city & Capslo were for targeted and criminalizing the homeless for sleeping in their vehicles last year, I mostly thought it was the stick instead of the carrot reasoning. Drive them into services (alas 5 parking spaces devised at the last minute after public outrage at their behavior) and secure donations for their dream of their shiny 9 million dollars homeless shelter (the pretty jail). But in light of these allegations there appears to be a much more sinister reason for driving them out of town. The homeless don’t talk if they are just plain gone and you can start with a new batch.


Do I think every Council member, police officer and Capslo board member are in league with the thievery and terrible goings on – NO. But there has been despicable treatment of the poor brought to their attention time and time again and they WILL be complicit if they chose to ignore these allegations. I urge us all to not let this get swept under the mat and contact the Attorney General’s office, our congresswoman, and city officials for a full investigation from an outside source (FBI, Attorney General, and Social Security Department comes to mind).


The city should count them selves lucky that they didn’t do another completely idiotic unjust deed towards the homeless. I expect there will be jail time for some and hopefully justice for the abused.


Truth

Kick these poor people when they are down and then steal from them. The criminals involved need to be rooted out tried and convicted of their crimes as to prevent this from happening to anyone else. How low will we as a community allow these criminals to go? Everyone who turned a blind eye is guilty of:


18 USC § 4 – Misprision of felony


Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.


Booty JuJu

Kudos to CCN, but nothing surprising here. Quasi public contracts are a license to print and skim with utter impunity in this county.


r0y

All one has to do is study ACORN and how it operates (or any of its shell fronts).


Very sad that we’ve created such a bureaucratic paperwork world that such leeches can exist and thrive with loopholes, friends in high places, etc.


Spirit Filled

This whole thing sickens me. Not even considering that this man is a vet. If they don’t get killed over there then programs like this will kill them. I say fire every damn one of these people. Put the leaders in jail or send them to the combat areas overseas and see what they do. They would be stealing money from them and screwing their women. (Sorry I’m just pissed off about this).


We need to take care of our soldiers. Why not give them congresses pay and give the congressmen and women the vets pay. Then I would call that justice.


Too many wimps and children, and I mean young children, running our local government. They don’t know enough about life to help anyone needing help. Even kids know right from wrong.


We live in a very selfish time. People are sooooo spoiled. Me first generation is pretty apparent. Not the kids of today as much as the generation past.


I just received this email, pass it on.


Back in September, on the first day of school, Martha Cothren, a social studies school teacher at Robinson High School , did something not to be forgotten. On the first day of school, with the permission of the school superintendent, the principal and the building supervisor, she removed all of the desks out of her classroom.


When the first period kids entered the room they discovered that there were no desks.


‘Ms.. Cothren, where’re our desks?’


She replied, ‘You can’t have a desk until you tell me how you earn the right to sit at a desk.’


They thought, ‘Well, maybe it’s our grades.’


‘No,’ she said.


‘Maybe it’s our behavior.’


She told them, ‘No, it’s not even your behavior.’


And so, they came and went, the first period, second period, third period. Still no desks in the classroom.


By early afternoon television news crews had started gathering in Ms.Cothren’s classroom to report about this crazy teacher who had taken all the desks out of her room.


The final period of the day came and as the puzzled students found seats on the floor of the deskless classroom, Martha Cothren said, ‘Throughout the day no one has been able to tell me just what he/she has done to earn the right to sit at the desks that are ordinarily found in this classroom. Now I am going to tell you.’


At this point, Martha Cothren went over to the door of her classroom and opened it.


Twenty-seven (27) War Veterans, all in uniforms, walked into that classroom, each one carrying a school desk. The Vets began placing the school desks in rows, and then they would walk over and stand alongside the wall… By the time the last soldier had set the final desk in place those kids started to understand, perhaps for the first time in their lives, just how the right to sit at those desks had been earned..


Martha said, ‘You didn’t earn the right to sit at these desks. These heroes did it for you. They placed the desks here for you. Now, it’s up to you to sit in them. It is your responsibility to learn, to be good students, to be good citizens. They paid the price so that you could have the freedom to get an education. Don’t ever forget it.’

By the way, this is a true story.


Blessings to all