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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bluesky

I went to the CAPSLO website and found that they just had their monthly board meeting on Feb 23rd. The agenda lists a public comment period. If nothing has happened by next month their meeting might be a good event for the public to attend.


Another interesting thing is the Homeless Services report that is part of the Feb. Director’s report. Go to the end of the report. Here is the statement on how many people are in case management:


Case Management – San Luis Obispo

In the month of January 2013, the San Luis Obispo Case Management office had a total client caseload of 81 consisting of 44 singles, 22 adults/parents and 15 children (11 families). We have 22 seniors, 38 disabled adults and one disabled child. Eleven of the clients are chronically homeless. Five individuals were housed during the month.


That’s a lot of people and potentially a lot of money being held.


HarryMalone

81 people and a $60 million dollar budget!?


unlisted

Now that Cliff has been cut off from SSI (aka welfare for the elderly and diabled) has anyone thought to sign him up for food stamps (aka SNAP)? He should qualify now.


BTW Guidestar now has Family Ties’ 2011 IRS 990EZ form posted. Lisa was paid less than $6000 in 2011, but nearly $5000 was spent on travel and meals. Interesting.


Dmarie

I have a few questions I would like to see answered.


1. Who deems these people mentally incapacitated? I would think a qualified health professional would need to do that.


2. Do these people know that they are being deemed mentally incapacitated and is it possible that they are agreeing to this just to have a place to sleep. Maybe they are being coerced.


3. Is it possible that Family Ties and CAPSLO are collecting money for people that signed on but are now deceased? SSA will send checks until they are notified of a persons death.


4. Are they still collecting money for people who just gave up and hitch hiked to another town?


5. Do recipients have to physically sign the check over each month?


It really is scary what is happening to these helpless people. Good work as usual by CCN. I don’t even watch the local news or read any newpapers anymore. This is the only news media I can rely on for local news.


MaryMalone

Great questions. I bet CCN has already been asking these questions, and Torres/Leisen have hidden under the veil of “client confidentiality.”


ReelView

wow! Thos are all excellent questions! Especially considering that nearly every year when the weather is cold, those who didn’t get in the shelter, have to find someplace outdoors, and nearly every year, someone succumbs to the cold! If shelter staff have a hissy fit about someone’s “attitude”, though they may be on Case Management, staff will kick them out for the night, or longer!


As for being mentally incapacitated, there are a few routes to that “determination”.


1. Someone (staff) suggests to these people how they can “qualify” for disability.

2. Someone else who is already on SSI, tells them how to do it.

3. These psych. doctors, don’t ask me why, but they practically “tell” the individual that they are “ill”!


As for the homeless services, someone needs to get in there undercover for at least a few months!


Sadly, some of them really are mentally ill. But those who are receiving their retirement checks….Thatis so totally evil! For the activity of the homeless services, especially Dee Torres, they should spend the rest of their miserable lives in prison!


SuperMex

CapSlo has 3 peeps making over $100,000 not including benefits & 1 making almost 90K not including bennies.


In 2010 Family Ties reported an” income” of just over $28,000 with Niesen making $19,000.


How are these two orgs related???


HarryMalone

CORRECTION”


“Family Ties reported an” income” of just over $28,000 with Niesen making $19,000″…


plus the $15,000 she took from Cliff Anderson = at least $34.000 plus Mr.Anderson can’t be the only one = probably well over $100,000.


taxpayer

It might be a good thing that Adam Hill and Dee Torres are getting married. Then, they won’t be able to testify against each other in court.


Cindy

I think it has more to do with Dee Torres doesn’t like being referred to as Adam’s “girlfriend” She finds it condescending and thinks it sounds like high school. Her friends have dropped by these threads and told CCN off for calling Dee a “girlfriend” on several occasions. Frankly I think it’s foolish to be upset that there is a universal word for people who are in a serious relationship and unmarried. It’s called a girlfriend and boyfriend and yes even kids use that term but so do adults.


No doubt all these stories where Dee is being referred to as a “girlfriend” are behind the proposal and desired change in status to the honorable grown up classification as “wife”. Good for her, I wish them well in their private lives.


MarkJames

I wonder if CCN will now refer to Dee and Adam as fiance’ and fiancee ? Regardless, until married couples are still girlfriend and boyfriend. Funny how terms work, she used to be his “mistress” until he got divorced.


Address it anyway you want but, once known as a “home wrecker” there is never any respect. If you can’t respect someone else’s marriage, why should anyone respect yours?


JQ Public

Okay, I don’t know if I’m posting this in the right place because I’m taking a bit and piece from several articles in this series. Apologies in advance if it doesn’t belong here.


In the fourth article, CNN stated Family Ties is a 501(c)(4) organization and that in order to be a tax exempt organization, it must have at least a 3 person board of directors and meet once a year. The French Hospital doctor, who was supposed to be a director, said she wasn’t on the Board of Directors and didn’t meet at all. Therefore, it appears Family Ties is not a federally tax exempt organization.


Social Security regulations say only a federally tax exempt organization can charge for alternate payee services. http://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/cfr20/404/404-2040a.htm


The first article says Family Ties has been collecting $25 every few months for the service of checking his credit scores and $37 a month for alternative fee payee services. It appears that Family Ties was not qualified to charge fees for services.


CAPSLO says there is no charge for their services. Therefore, it appears absolutely none of the funds kept by Family Ties should be retained by them or by Family Ties for services.


Family Ties should itemize every dollar received and expended; not only for Mr. Anderson, but for all of the people for whom they are an alternate payee. This should include the actual dates each amount was received and expended. This should be done on an individual client basis. Decent business practice would require notices of the intake, expenses and account balance in writing at least once a month and within 10 business days upon request.


I doubt many will believe that there just happened to be a balance of exactly $5,000.00 to the penny. That doesn’t even sound plausible. The fact that this was reported to Social Security after this journalistic investigation started sounds very threatening.


JQ Public

Correction. I meant CCN, not CNN.


Rambunctious

Who are these “Rock” Blog people? They are emailing a vendetta letter against CCN…


SuperMex

Check out guidestar.org to see their irs reports…CapSlo has an annual budget of almost $60,000,000.

You’ll have to dig a little deeper for Family Ties.


GO GET EM KAREN!!!!


Much love from SuperMex!!!!!


obispan

For comparison the City of SLO has an annual budget of about $50,000,000 (17% less) and 340 employees, and accounting that is public record. We know how much the City Manager makes and we can bitch about it if we want. The number of “private” organizations that receive almost all their money from various government agencies has always bothered me with regard to accountability.


SuperMex

CapSlo has 3 peeps making over $100,000 not including benefits & 1 making almost 90K not including bennies.


In 2010 Family Ties reported an” income” of just over $28,000 with Niesen making $19,000.


Jorge Estrada

How many years does it take to file a criminal charge? Can somebody atleast issue a theiving ticket, based on the public paper trail?