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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* Agape Church

* CalvarySLO Church

* Church of the Nazarene, San Luis Obispo

* Family Christian Center

* First Baptist Church of San Luis Obispo

* Crossroads Foursquare Church

* Grace Church, San Luis Obispo

* Mountainbrook Community Church

* Trinity Presbyterian Church

* Meadow Park Church Of Christ

* Mercy Church

* Cayucos Community Church

* Calvary Mission Church

* Real Life Fellowship

We have fourteen churches in San Luis Obispo. Therefore, the Christians of these chruches has to ask the obvious question; why are the majority of SLO homeless still without proper food and shelter? I am sure that the outright foolishness of professed Christians today, in regards to the way they dismiss the poor and homeless, makes Jesus sick.

Jesus said; “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3: 17-18) Key word: “action!”

Jesus said; “All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.” (Galatians 2:10)

Why aren’t the churches mentioned above following the teachings of Jesus shown in the above passages 24/7/365? Why? Because, if they did, we wouldn’t need CAPSLO or Family Ties, would we? Do said churches know more than Jesus the Christ in the passages in question? No, they do not!

I am sure Jesus is crying when pseudo-christians continue to feed their division of Christianity, aka, many different denominations of Christianity that all profess to be the correct one, thousands of dollars in the collection plates every month. But, still the homeless people in their community are still in need for food, shelter, and basic needs. This is religiously insane!

Christians, when was the last time your pastor visited Prado Center, or San Luis Creek, and administered actual help to the homeless and poor in a godly way, and ON A CONTINUED BASIS, as biblically prescribed by Jesus? When?

When was the last time your pastor followed Jesus’ passages relative to the homeless and the poor by having a church benefit for this faction, where the pastor and flock actually took the proceeds down to where the homeless reside, ON A CONTINUED BASIS, as biblically prescribed by Jesus? When?

As we’re all aware, we can’t expect the Catholic Churches to help the homeless in any way whatsoever. This is because, for the most part, all of their tithing money is being used to pay off their attorneys and settlements for their ongoing pedophile priest’s sexual antics and cover-ups.

Hypocritical pseudo-christians, please click on the “dislike button” to this post. This will show everyone that you go directly against Jesus’ biblical teachings regarding the poor and homeless. Thank you.

Love the post, Ted. Just the right amount of ranting (IMO). If ever a subject warranted some good old-fashioned Biblical ranting, stealing money from the homeless is it.

There are 15 churches in SLO. You forgot San Luis First Assembly.

Ted! If churches could do the work of local community organizations and social service agencies we wouldn’t need these agencies! It’s enough that churches house families in their facilities for two months at a time and provide charitable donations.

Society isn’t based on spoonfeeding people. You are born, you learn how to do something, you go to work! If you can’t find work you walk the streets. Churches don’t provide foodstamps, neither are they obligated to feed the masses.

Homelessness is a serious issue all over the nation these days. We here in San Luis Obispo have entrusted agencies like CAPSLO, well noted for their aggressive fund raising efforts, to help get people on their feet. Just where this money goes and why the homeless aren’t effectively being helped is beyond me. We hear nothing but bad news in the Tribune. We only see more and more homeless roaming and bumming the streets everyday, doing drugs and assaulting people.

Don’t blame others now. Suppose churches did have a lot of money just sitting around. How exactly would you suggest they apply it to get each homeless person a place to live and able to live on their own? It’s cowardly of you to suggest people just simply open their homes to strangers and take care of them in our present society. Some actually do here and there. Bless them.

No, churches and community organizations cannot fulfill all social service needs. That’s where government comes in either providing direct aid or grants to the aforementioned organizations. Fine with me, an Eisenhower (tho not yet born) Republican. But I suspect accountability is lacking and would like to follow the money. Maybe Mr. Anderson’s case management over the years did in fact consume $20,000. If so, wow, let’s take a look.

I highly doubt there will be enough records left, by the time the oversight agencies and those who gave the power to the ho’s at CAPSLO get around to sending Torres and Niesen out on at least administrative leave.

I am sure they are shredding evidence as fast as they can. Meanwhile, at least two of the Supes are more interested on what is going on inside the pants of their floozies than they are in carrying out their duties of office.

Many churches don’t have a lot of money lying around, and that’s because it is being fraudulently used to benefit those who hold the power in the churches.

Churches and their leadership are not one bit less prone to fraud than are ho-houses like CAPSLO. In some cases, there is something that the population of churches and government ho-house agencies share….they prey on the most gullible or powerless people.


“If churches could do the work of local community organizations and social service agencies we wouldn’t need these agencies!”

Duh. That’s my point exactly. The reason for my treatise is only to show in how hypocritical the pseudo-christians are within San Luis Obispo city and county by not following Jesus’ direct word, but at the same time, they want to call themselves Christians. Get it? It’s called, being hypocrites!

The United States is 75 percent Christian. The population of SLO is 45,000. Therefore, using this paradigm, 75 percent of SLO equals 33,750 “assumed Christians” within the SLO city limit. It is estimated that there’re 4000 homeless within the county, so for the sake of a discussion, let’s conservatively say there’re 1500 homeless/ poor living within SLO city limits.

This simply works out to be 33,750 Christians taking care of 1500 homeless and poor within our city limits. That’s 225 Christians per homeless/poor person providing money for their well being, be it medical, food, shelter, alcohol/drug abuse, or psychiatric help, etc. Are you seeing the simple math? Can you spell h-y-p-o-c-r-i-t-e-s?

“Churches don’t provide foodstamps, neither are they obligated to feed the masses.”

Your biblical ignorance is overwhelming. All Christian churches are most certainly suppose to take care of the homeless and poor masses!

“For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’ (Deuteronomy 15:11)

Jesus said; “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:17-18) When was the last time you saw a Christian church or adherant follow this direct word of their Savior? Hypocrites!

The bottom line is the biblical fact that any church within the city limits shouldn’t have one red cent within their coffers, period. All of it should be used to help the poor and homeless if they operate under the Christian banner. Look at it this way, who is any church, or alleged Christian, to usurp the authority and direct word of Jesus the Christ regarding in how He wants the Christian to take care of the poor and homeless???!!! Comprende?

Seriously, your ignorance to the scriptures and how the TRUE Christian is suppose to act relative to said scripture, is just to much for me to wade through. I suggest that you take your blatant disregard to TRUE Christianity to a Christian children’s forum where you’ll be able to pass your ignorance with ease.

Handing out money to the homeless doesn’t help them get on their feet, except maybe to make a mad dash to the liquor store and party for another day! Give them enough and they might go to a motel until the money is depleted. The scam is popular.

As long as there’s access to a free meal everyday at Prado, cooked and served graciously by volunteers from different churches each day, the homeless will continue their lifestyles.

The people of SLO need to stop thinking that monetary handouts will actually help. Social services and local community organizations are supposed to enable people to gain self reliance. It’s unfortunate the system is in fact a failure, corrupt and full of dishonesty.

Those truly seeking help are wasting their time here. Go on, and good luck to all of you.

Thanks for simply ignoring the reality of the Bush- and Obama-trashed economy, which put slaughtering our soldiers in the Middle East ahead of what is best for the people, especially the workers, of America.

The homeless population has swelled with previously employed people, and especially tragic are the families who became homeless. Some of these families will exist in a chronic state of homelessness thanks to soul-less ho’s like those running and working at CAPSLO.

You are nuts if you believe the majority of homeless eagerly embraced the “lifestyle,” as you call it. The reality is that it is not so easy to exit the homeless “lifestyle” as it is to be shoved into it by the frauds in Washington running our country.

The ho’s in the CAPSLO ho-house are simply taking advantage of the situation and stealing from the poor who most need their help.

There has to be a very special place in Hell for people like this.

It sonds like Cliiff will have so many pots and pans there won’t be any room in his small trailer. He’lll have to have a yard sale..

In addition to embezzlng funds Niesen and Torres should be charged with elder abuse. Many of Cliff’s behaviors are indicative of someone who has been emotionally and mentally abused. Biz Steinberg enabled the whole process and she too should be charged as an accomplice.

I noticed that a CAPSLO supporter (bmax) stated that CAPSLO has passed many audits from various agencies and no wrong doing have ever been uncovered. My thought is that money orders void of a payee are required by CAPSLO from those who do not use Family Ties. These money orders are supposedly returned at a later date but there are those who also claim that they have never received their money orders back. Why no payee to begin with? Surely this form of accounting would not show up in an audit. Likewise Family Ties is a perfect deflection from the scrutiny of CAPSLO auditors. There are at least 10 well known licensed and scrupulous fiduciaries in SLO who act in the same capacity as the unlicensed Lisa Niesen. Why did CAPSLO set up Neisen as the fiduciary? Why didn’t they check her credentials? I would guess that it was “at best” a crony type of affair. Does anyone know where Neisens girlfriend works or is she a stay at home sort of house wife?

Audits make sure you didn’t charge a bag of chips on the company gas card, they do not address the efficiencies of “legitimate” administrative expenses.

Excellent point, MarkJames.

NOTE TO CCN: One cannot reply to comments that are on page 3 of the comments section. I have noticed this before. The other pages offer “reply” when one is logged in, page 3 prompts “log in to reply”. If you log in again you end up on the current comments page but when going to page 3 get “log in to reply” again.

I had the same problem. Login to reply but then leave the story before you reply and hit home. Then go back to the story and it will let you reply. At least, that is how I did it. There is definitely a glitch there.

We are having a few technical difficulties. We are working on fixing it.

And somebody just had to give a thumbs down to this!

Probably The Tribune.

LOL. Satan made them do it.

I’m so angry that I could spit nails and I have another thing to add to this forum.

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

Mr Anderson has already lost 6 months of SSI benefits based on the excess 3K out of 5K that Niesen admitted to illegally withholding Anderson any access to. I have to wonder if she is counting on the fact that he will not pursue the other 15K she took/kept from him because if he does pursue it, he will lose benefits for several years.

This is absolutely despicable. I hope Stew finds a way out of this mess for Mr Anderson and pursues the return of all his money. Niesen has no legal standing and no veil of protection as she was operating illegally. I hope he sues her personally. No doubt she has some nice diggs for herself.

Ya gotta luv it. Keep money that could have been paying rent in order to keep him homeless and then blackmail him with his own money as a threat to cut off benefits. $970’s not big money, but it is enough, with Medicare for health and probably eligibility for food stamps. I’m thinkin’ $500 for a room and utilities and $15/day for food/soap and toothpaste =$950. A true volunteer (think church or service organization) could give him the counsel necessary to manage his situation and provide good quality of life. If anyone wants to put me in touch with Mr. Anderson I will buy him lunch today and give him $50 to help out.

I’ll try to get his phone number and I’ll pay for half his lunch. I have some pots and pans for him as it was mentioned that he had nothing to cook with. Stay posted.

email me, CCN screen name at Bill Gates’ service, I’d love to hear this guy’s story firsthand. I will pay for lunch for all of us, you can get the check next time.

Huh? What is Bill Gates’ service? hotmail, msn ?

OSISPAN & MARK. I just spoke with Cliff Anderson and I hope you were both serious because IT’S ON. He is very excited about the lunch, he really needs the $50.00 (started crying) and the pots and pans. I also have some items for him. We will be meeting him at 3:PM today in SLO. Please don’t let him down.

Please call Karen Velie at 234-1703 and she will tell you the meeting place.

P.S. Obispan, You don’t have to pay for my lunch, I’ll also share the cost for everyone.


The injustice done to Cliff Anderson hits me in the face as I follow this saga. I’m heartened at the outpouring of help for him from so many of you. The volunteer spirit and goodness of most people never ceases to impress me and make me glad that humanitarianism is still alive. More power to those of you taking a personal hand in helping Mr. Anderson!

I comment on this because I can’t help but think of the other homeless that have suffered [continue to suffer] under the draconion demands for money by CAPSLO. IF/ when more cases are uncovered, others wil lalso potentially be cut off from their only source of income.

What steps can be taken to halt the extrotion and genuinely help people in need of a hand? There must be some means better than what is going on now.

our elected officials and their hired beaurecrats have had carte blanche over several decades now to steal and misappropriate funds, vote themselves outrageous pensions etc. while we all do our 9 to 5s trusting all the while they will do whats right for the citizens even if a little embezzlement or malfeasance takes place now and then. Wrong! This is a new age of selfish indulgence and the government at all levels is comprised of self serving assh#%es that steal, lie and demonstrate absolute incompetance. It will take some time for the people in this country to realize that the biggest threat to the citizens of this country is not China or Hugo Chavez, it is the out of control government we have. We deserve what we are getting. From Washington to San Luis Obispo its all about $$$. City Counsel meetings should be full of ranting raving citzens until the officials either take some action about this or resign from the pressure and someone else will step up and do the job right.

While it may seem to some that everyone working in any government position is corrupt, please don’t make that leap of (il)logic(al) thinking. I have known some who do have a job with the city and some that work for the county, a few that work for the state; none of them would be people I would call “corrupt”. To find actual corruption, actual malfesence, actual law breaking is news, that is why this particular story is gaining so much traction. What will make this story really stand out though, is the levels of government that the alleged corruption may be discovered in, the depth of involvement by various officials, and the seemingly complete lack of oversight that has allowed this story to happen.

Many people seek government employment due to the stability of the job, the defined retirement packages, and to a very small number of people, the ability to be in a position to tell others what to do, be it other workers or members of the public. Unlike most who have the Tea Party mentality that all government is bad, all government is corrupt, I believe that dishonesty and corruption is usually a very small percentage of the population, whether they work in government or not. When corruption and scandal are uncovered (thanks again, CCN!), the public must demand that action be taken, justice be served, and the guilty be made to account for their actions and behavior. To allow such behavior by either elected officials or those in a supervisory position to not be punished or made to account for is a tacit approval of such behavior, IF, we the people are made fully aware of said behavior.

Don’t demonize all government workers and officials for the actions of some; do go after, speak up, demand action against those that do break the law, circumvent rules, and illegally enrich themselves.

CCN needs a site for honest people working for corrupt officials to voice their suspicions, without returning to the Salem Witch Trials. We need to eliminate this cancer of corruption!

Maybe an internal site. If enough fingers point at a particular official or operation, CCN might want to further investigate.

QUOTING SMILEY: “This is a new age of selfish indulgence and the government at all levels is comprised of self serving assh#%es that steal, lie and demonstrate absolute incompetance….”

Yeah, it reminds me of the administration of France’s King Louis XVI….you know, the “Let Them Eat Cake” administration.

You would think Niesen, Torres, and the SLOCo administrators and elected officials who have allowed this to go on forever had not ever read about what happened to Louis XVI and his bride, Marie Antoinette.

Too bad…the warning signs are clear.


Mary: Maybe everyone connected with the story think that they are “a head” of the game …..

Now that Cliff has found a home, I wonder if CAPSLO will add him to their list of “program successes” like they did with Kimberly Frey-Griffin (the woman mentioned in part 1 of this series).

Oh, puke. I hadn’t even thought of that, Cindy, but I bet they do.

If factual, it sounds like these do-gooder types are some self serving, self dealing administrators. Is this one of those high salaried organizations feeding off the masses?