Homeless man hassled by CAPSLO, Family Ties

February 23, 2013
Cliff Anderson

Cliff Anderson

Keeping them homeless

By KAREN VELIE, JOSH FRIEDMAN and DANIEL BLACKBURN

(Editor’s note: This is the fifth in a series about San Luis Obispo County Homeless Services and the nonprofits managing the program. See Social Security’s letter stopping Cliff Anderson’s disability payments and a reported accounting of his funds held by Family Ties at the bottom of this story.)

A San Luis Obispo nonprofit reported that it has hoarded $5,000 of a formerly homeless client’s Social Security benefits, despite previously claiming the account was nearly empty.

Family Ties then reported the violation to the Social Security Administration after Cliff Anderson, who transferred more than $40,000 to the nonprofit, told the organization he would no longer use its services, and requested his money back. After receiving news of the amount Family Ties had saved, Social Security stopped Anderson’s disability benefits.

Lisa Niesen, president of Family Ties, said earlier this month that she had virtually nothing in Anderson’s account even though he had signed over $41,420 in Social Security payments to the nonprofit since 2009.

Niesen, who also holds the title of San Luis Obispo County’s chief deputy public guardian, first said that most of the hundreds of accounts managed by her Family Ties operation contained only $20 to $30. After Anderson provided copies of his Social Security records showing he was owed nearly $20,000 by Family Ties, Niesen said there was less than $2,000 in his account.

This week, Neisen adjusted that amount again, telling Social Security that Anderson’s account contained exactly $5,000 — meaning he would lose his Social Security benefits. Federal laws require that a person on Social Security Disability Insurance not save more than $2,000 in order to insure that the money is used for the recipient’s needs. If more than $2,000 is saved, SSI benefits are suspended until the money is spent down.

Niesen reported the new figures after Anderson said he wanted to withdraw from Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo (CAPSLO) case management, and recover the thousands of dollars from his Social Security income held in trust by Family Ties, the nonprofit that is tied to CAPSLO.

On Feb. 18, Anderson’s attorney, Stew Jenkins, sent a demand for the return of Anderson’s money. On Thursday, after several harassing comments from the Prado Day Center staff attempting to learn Anderson’s new address, Anderson was given a check from Family Ties for $100 of the $5,000 Family Ties claims to hold.

Shortly before he picked up his check, Niesen called Anderson and informed him that she had sent an accounting to the Social Security Administration, which would cause a change in his benefits.

Social Security officials then informed Anderson that his $5,000 held by Family Ties exceeds the allowable level, and that his SSI benefits were being suspended.

When he read the letter from Social Security, Anderson wept and expressed fear of becoming homeless again.

He currently is in privately-arranged housing, but is unable to pay his rent and other bills because Niesen controls his funds. Niesen called Anderson Thursday at about 9 p.m. telling him he could lose his housing if he did not tell her where he lived “so she could write a check for his rent.”

Anderson’s attorney responded by calling Niesen and ordering her to not to have any further contact with Anderson.

Instead, Neisen arrived at Anderson’s rental residence Friday morning, demanding his signature on documents, ostensibly to return his own money to him and cancel their business relationship. She then said she would return later with more papers for him to sign.

Attorney Jenkins is considering a restraining order to keep Niesen from harassing his client, he said.

Anderson agreed to make Family Ties his representative payee in 2009 after becoming homeless in the aftermath of a fire at his apartment. CAPSLO case managers told Anderson his money would be used to help place the now 69-year-old into housing.

However, the system intended to help San Luis Obispo’s homeless instead often keeps them indigent, preventing them from having sufficient resources for even basic needs like clothing, food, medical care, and personal comforts.

Almost four years later and after collecting $41,420 in Anderson’s payments while he remained in CAPSLO’s case management program, the agency continued to keep the bulk of Anderson’s money — usually providing him with only $400 of the $970 in Social Security benefits he receives monthly.

CAPSLO officials require homeless individuals to provide 50 to 70 percent of their income to CAPSLO or a designated payee in order to have a guaranteed bed at the shelter or an overnight parking space. Homeless people who receive Social Security payments are required to make Family Ties their representative payee, with an agreement that if they quit case management, their funds will be returned to them within 24 hours.

“The client’s funds should be returned to them within a 24-hour-period, unless it is a weekend or a holiday,” said Jim Famalette, CAPSLO’s chief operating officer, in a recent email to CalCoastNews.

Several homeless people have related the difficulty of getting their SSI money back after quitting case management. Family Ties, according to its nonprofit organizational rules, is only permitted to work with clients deemed mentally incapacitated or developmentally disabled.

As part of the process of making Family Ties their payees, clients are deemed mentally incapacitated through the Social Security Administration. To break away from Family Ties, clients must see a doctor and undergo a competency exam. Then after about 30 days, the recipient can apply for control over his benefits.

After discovering that he had been deemed “mentally incapacitated,” Anderson visited a physician.

“Memory skills long and short term intact, adequate math skills, oriented, and appropriate,” his doctor informed Social Security officials.

 

Keeping Them Homeless, the series.


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Disgusted

It’s fortunate that Jenkins & Rizzo actually care about the homeless. They’re doing the work that our Supervisors, County staff and elected officials should be doing.


MaryMalone

I LOVE the photo accompanying this article. Good choice, CCN peeps.


bobfromsanluis

Just a slight disagreement on the picture; instead, have the “thief” without a face mask, but wearing a County of San Luis Obispo employee badge?


PaulJones

Currently every post has three thumbs down.


HELLO, Adam Hill – Lisa Niesen & Dee Torres. Care to explain yourselves? Hey Adam, what are you going to do now, after you disseminated over 3000 e-mails claiming that CCN was lying about your girlfriend and her friend Lisa? We won’t wait for any apologies, you’re not man enough. What we’ll wait for is to see you all prosecuted.


lakerhater

Were Mad as Hell and We ain’t gonna take it any more! End the Cycle of Government Corruption!


MaryMalone

The signs are clear that SLO has reached a tipping point. tinyurl.com/842earr


HML

Don’t forget about Dan Carpenter. He is very much connected to CAPSLO and Friends of Prado Day Center. He wanted the city to fight Stew Jenkins, Saro Rizzo, and the SLO Homeless Alliance to the end no matter what the costs. He always voted against the homeless. Plus, he went out of his way to try to discredit CCN at a city council meeting this month. Why would a public official do such things? What do you have to hide, Dan Carpenter?


HML

Off with their heads! When are Lisa Niesen and Dee Torres going to be fired from their positions? They should be fired immediately!


MaryMalone

They should at least be on administrative leave…but, then, that would mean they wouldn’t be able to destroy the incriminating evidence.


MarkJames

If Cliff told Lisa Niesen that he wanted to disassociate himself from Family Ties and CAPSLO why did she insist on writing his rent check and demand knowing where he lived? He asked for all his funds and said he had a home and wanted to be on his own and yet, she wouldn’t give him his money or relinquish control over him? Is she counting on the fact that she managed to preciously have him declared “mentally incapacitated”? He obvious isn’t and this leads me to wonder how she has managed to have so many people declared mentally incompetent to begin with? This runs deeper than we all know. Someone is working with her in an effort to afford her the right to take control of the funds that the homeless are receiving. Cliff Anderson is only the tip of the ice burg.


Thank You Stew Jenkins and Rizzo for getting a restraining order against these vultures. Glad you also took the steps to prove that Cliff is anything but “mentally incapacitated”. This is truly almost unbelievable and its difficult to digest all the wrongdoings.


Snoopdog

On one of his shows this week, Dave wondered aloud if Jeff Hamm has any knowledge of this. Jeff is

head of the Health Agency, and if he doesn’t have knowledge of this, he should! Lisa is his employee,

and works in the expensively renovated administrative tower where he works. Why no word from him?

It is time for the county (including mental health) and CAPSLO to admit that they have a dysfunctional

system that does little for the clients, but keeps ineffective programs and corrupt leaders intact.

Contact your supervisor NOW and demand an investigation.


MaryMalone

Certainly, if Niesen would steal from the clients of her own business, she would also have the capacity to steal from the clients she deals with in government agencies.


freshair

Jim Patterson sits on the CAPSLO board.


kettle

It appears that it’s Debbie Arnold’s turn.


http://www.capslo.org/about-us/board-of-directors


MaryMalone

QUOTING MARKJAMES: “He obvious isn’t and this leads me to wonder how she has managed to have so many people declared mentally incompetent to begin with?


It’s called “projection.” She is uncomfortable with her own mental incompetence and, instead of dealing with it, projects it on those who actually are competent.


myword

Beyond despicable…CAPSLO Board call an emergency meeting today!


Do NOT circle the wagons. Find out – no,DEMAND a full accounting of these payee/cash management accounts.


To do less than ask for a full forensic accounting of Family Ties (your contractual fiduciary for your clients) and Capslo Case management client accounts would be criminal.


I suggest that you begin at the beginning. I am sure that that the Social Security Office, Social Service Office will happy to fill in the blanks if the records are not forthcoming.


Community Leaders demand an accounting!


MaryMalone

I’m not so sure Social Services and Social Security offices would be “happy to fill ni the blanks.”


Ultimately, these two agents have the responsibility for those who contract under them to provide services, and those who have official access to the SS funds of recipients.


I also think that SLOCo will align with Adam Hill and Dee Torres since Niesen also works for the County, and in basically the same capacity.


It would be totally illogical to believe that Niesen is only stealing the funds of the homeless in her private company. Clearly, if she is willing to steal from the disadvantaged in her capacity of a private business owner, she certainly has the capacity to steal from the County’s clients.


abigchocoholic

This is bigger than this one guy.


So quit screwing around and start the lawsuit. Once the forensic accounting is underway someone there will turn and we’ll really see what’s going on.


Power corrupts–somebody in an organization just about every single time. In the same light, there’s always someone who sees criminal prosecution and jail time coming and will turn on their co-conspirators to avoid it.