Homeless man hassled by CAPSLO, Family Ties

February 23, 2013
Cliff Anderson

Cliff Anderson

Keeping them homeless


(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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Why should any of us be surprised that a government employee and specifically in this case a pseudo government employee entrusted with looking after and assisting the mentally disadvantaged would lie and misappropriate funds for personal gain. Just take a moment and reflect on all the articles locally and nationally wherein government employees have embezzled, stolen, lied, committed crimes while in the course of their day to day duties. The City of Bell’s City Manager (Mark Rizzo), Council, Police Chief, Directors all embezzle government funds for personal gain; the City of Vernon’s City Manager; Ron Faria the employee at San Luis Obispo who stole the piece of landscaping equipment, Bud Nance the guy who directed staff to dump hazardous waste at the back of the corporation yard; Christine Wallace the City of San Luis Obispo employee who went postal on fellow employees on facebook during work hours; Katie Litchig who has lied over and over again to the community, then discovered a one time cash lump sum hidden on the books of $6 million this year and last year $74 million dollars in a slush fund; Bob Nicholson the City Utilities employee who was charging City residents for the services he was paid to perform as a City employee; the two police officers in SLO who were prosecuted for importing contraband into the US, the recent SLO police officer arrested by the FBI for extortion, stealing drugs, etc.; the fireman busted for beating another guest nearly to death; the sheriff fired for conducting unlawful searches while on duty at the County; the half dozen sheriffs in this county alone busted for criminal misconduct and so on and so on during the past few years; the army national guard employee who squandered and misspent $16 million dollars of government funds, the former chief of police in Paso Robles engaged in countless acts of misconduct (carrying a concealed unregistered handgun, engaging in acts of sexual deviance while on duty; the local DA who directed an auction property sale to his personal friend in Orange County; the county supervisors engaged in numerous acts of sexual misconduct, questionable business practices and so on; then there was Kelly Gearheart who stole from thousands.

Here is the point, when government officials are constantly stealing, deceiving the public, engaging in other acts of criminal misconduct for personal gain why would anyone be surprised that a person entrusted with significant amounts of cash for the benefit of the mentally disadvantaged would steal from those funds? If government employees can get away with it then so can anyone else!

Most people don’t know it, but he got his start at Gottshalks by working in ladies lingerie.

(just kidding)

If this is the same person, the Chief Operating Officer of CAPSLO, Jim Famalette, also served as President of and CEO of Gottschalks from 1997 to 2011.


Calling Laurel Weir…paging Laurel Weir…where are you?…why haven’t we heard from you?

According to an article in the New Times on July 19, 2012:

“As the homeless services coordinator, Weir will take the helm of the Homeless Services Oversight Council, a collection of officials throughout the county tasked with addressing homelessness, securing government grants, and implementing the county’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness. SLO County supervisors unanimously approved a request to hire for the position on April 24. Weir will make a salary of $106,499.”

So Laurel Weir was hired to secure government grants and oversee the oversight. For that she gets paid $106,499 by county taxpayers. Yet she has not addressed this scandal at all. Isn’t that a major part of her responsibilities? To provide oversight?

CCN has proved nothing–NOTHING–criminal about CAPSLO. CAPSLO has many different audits by many different agencies. The crime, if there is one, rests with Family Ties. And, I’m guessing that CAPSLO will do what it needs to regarding that, as it should, if the allegations are true.

CCN has once again cast too big a net. The best you can do is say “Family Ties, the nonprofit that is tied to CAPSLO.” And, you try to do that every chance you get. Why? Because, by god, you’re going to get Dee Torres if it’s the last thing you do. Why haven’t you been beating on Biz? She is, after all, the head of CAPSLO. Because apparently you don’t have an axe to grind with her. It’s Dee. And, Adam.

When this shakes away from CAPLSO toward Family Ties, will you apologize to those you slandered?

P.S. And, no, I still don’t have ANY ties to CAPSLO except as one who has seen the amazing work they do in the community and support them with my dollars.

Family Ties is working for and with CAPSLO, as is clear in this information from the article:

“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….”

This means that CAPSLO is absolutely responsible for any misdeeds by Family Ties. They force their clients with Social Security income to make Family Ties their representative payee, for heaven’s sake. Obviously, CAPSLO has a responsibility to make sure that its clients are being treated in an ethical and honest manner – and obviously, CAPSLO has not.

Beyond that, it seems impossible that CAPSLO officials never got any complaints about this – especially since so many others knew what was going on. I think that maybe everyone just assumed that the clients would not have the knowledge or the resources to find help.

Anyone who has ever dealt with Social Security knows that it can be challenging, to say the least, to get anywhere with that agency, and this county is so corrupt that it is doubtful that the CAPSLO clients would have gotten any help there. So what can a person without money or connections do?

It has always been a fact that people who are powerless make very “convenient” victims for the numerous crooks who are just waiting to take advantage. Thank goodness Cal Coast News stepped in to help put a stop to this outrage.

Oh I just have to laugh at your post bmax, as if we can’t see CAPSLO standing there with their arms crossed straight out and index fingers extended. “He/She went that way”…………………

As mbactivist1 has mentioned, it is CAPSLO who forces the homeless into signing over their monetary benefits to Family Ties. We all saw this with the parking program and heard it straight from Dee Torres and Adam Hill how these people must do this. Dee Torres stated that this is also the only way to guarantee a bed a night at the shelter.

CAPSLO well knows that being declared “mentally incompetent” is necessary to use Family Ties and we have all heard CAPSLO (Torres & Hill) at city council meetings referring to the homeless as all mentally ill and incapable of making reasonable decisions for themselves. Heck they even claim that the public isn’t smart enough to have an opinion about the homeless and the tape is available for all to see and listen to !! What gall………

It was CAPSLO responsibility to vet the fiduciary. Neisen is unlicensed, her Board of Directors is bogus and she has never implemented a 2K collection threshold. She can’t even account for the funds that she collects. I for one have had it with the excuses and where is the rest of Andersons funds? She went from claiming he had $30 to under $2,000 to $5,000 and you can bet it’s closer to $15-20,000 as seen by his payments and his standard check disbursements.

I would tell you and your friends to seek help but their is no cure for narcissism with sociopathic tendencies. Before you and your friends call people like Mr Anderson mentally ill or the public confused, I think you need to take a closer look at yourselves.

bmax, The very fact that Dee Torres, CAPSLO and their crony Adam Hill have made public statements at city council meetings, BOS meetings and disseminated 1000’s of e-mails stating that none of this is true goes to their lack of credibility.

It’s time they admit that IT IS TRUE and state that they are taking immediate action. Why is it that CCN had to do the investigation this far and practically break their arms and they still won’t admit that there has been wrong doing?

A potentially massive SS fraud is ignored while the bennies of a squeaky wheel are terminated in a matter of hours? The only time the SSA reacts that fast is when upper management is subjected to the whip hand of the well connected. In such a common and well worn circumstance, why none of the aggrieved parties or their advocates have initiated criminal proceedings is perplexing.

Every single member of the CAPSLO Board of Directors have, at the very least, failed in their duty to have oversight over this organization. Every elected official who has been a member of the Board of Directors needs to have their relationship with CAPSLO investigated and shine some light on their voting to give CAPSLO more and more money. There are many questions that deserve to be answered.

Ya know, this is something I knew about years ago, only I had no way to prove it! I have heard some of the homeless discuss it many, many times. This is clearly a gross criminal act on part of not only CAPLSO, Family Ties, but also our “accepting and tolerant” Happiest City in America!

Geeze, I wish I had a spy cam! No doubt, there is criminal activity and someone from the outside needs to check this out. The shelter and Prado….need to be shut down. And I have much more work to do!

The facts keep revealing more and more wrong doing.

The root cause of the problem is CAPSLO requiring people who use homeless services to turn over their $ to CAPSLO (or designated other). CAPSLO board of directors needs to put an immediate stop to the illegal taking of homeless persons’ SSI / SSA. The amounts alloted by SSI / SSA are so small it’s barely enough for a person to pay for monthly essentials.

None of this horrific situation would be going on, if CAPSLO stopped(or never started) wrongfully taking the subsistance income from the homeless. CAPSLO says it’s to help the homeless — NO WAY! They are depriving the homeless of much needed and miniscule funds.

“They are depriving the homeless of much needed and miniscule funds.”

I have to agree. Any funds that they have kept over 2K are now going to cost the rightful owner a loss of benefits. This is a complete travesty of justice. Consider the cold and rainy day’s that the homeless are made to leave the shelter in the early morning and stay out in the cold all day until dinner. Mr Anderson could have used his funds that Family Ties illegally held from him to get himself a $40.00 room on many many cold and wet days (at least 3 days a week) , where he could have stayed warm, comfortable, safe and restful.. Had he been able to do so, he wouldn’t be in such ill health right now. How many day’s have they even opened the warming shelter this winter? Only FOUR DAYS. That alone is unconscionable.

I am very angry to hear of such gross incompetence and lazy carelessness where peoples very lives are concerned. Many have suffered needlessly because of this agency and its associates. I use the word “incompetence” generously although I think stronger words are probably more accurate. I would like to throw these supposed guardians and case managers out into the snow, butt naked for a few days or more.

I think accusing them of gross incompetence and lazy carelessness is giving them too much credit. If there are hundreds of people whose money has been signed over to Family Ties where is the money? There should be a forensic audit of both Family Ties and CAPSLO. The strange thing is that thiis means all these people who signed their Social Security checks over to Family Ties didn’t get the money in the first place and are now going to have future checks taken away from them because Family Ties did something unethical, if not illegal. It appears that there’s a lot more than negligence involved in this case.

I contend that Dee, Lisa, Adam and the rest are not just criminals but sociopaths.

And a word to CAPSLO and Prado board members: You had better be certain your organizations’ Directors & Officers’ insurance is current.

“Sociopath” is an apt term to use. A profile of the sociopath includes:

Manipulative and cunning.

Grandiose sense of self.

Pathological lying.

Lack of remorse, shame or guilt.

I’ve also noticed a tendency for them to accuse others of behavior they themselves exhibit.

I’ve dealt with both Torres and Hill. They both show glaring signs of each of these traits.

I suggest anyone with at least a pencil and piece of paper (better yet a pen, phone or computer) to use


Contact any public or private official or entity that might have influence and urge them to use that

influence to help shut CAPSLO down, force Hill out and lay the whole dirty to rest.

that is to say “mess to rest” (I hate it when that happens)