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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So, I am trying to help my brother who is out there in SLO and homeless. He somehow got hooked up with Lisa N. somehow, I’m not clear how, and now he says he hasn’t seen any money in two months. I’m calling CAPSLO but this article and the comments scare me. Any suggestions on how to help him?

Enter AB-5, the Homeless Person’s Bill of Rights and Fairness Act:


(admin edit: link repair)

Does anyone else have the suspicion that Family Ties might have been set up by CAPSLO to take the fall if all this ever came to light? I mean it really seems like Lisa Neisen, who has no background that indicates she should be in fiduciary charge of anything, may have intentionally been put in a position that she wasn’t qualified for ro provide cover for what was really going on. Maybe Family Ties was formed to provide someone to blame when everything fell apart. It’s strange that CAPSLO never took the time to verifiy whether or not Family Ties actually had a legitimate Board of Directors. If I were Lisa Niesen I would start cooperating with the District Attorney as soon as possible and let them know how Family Ties really started.

I don’t think Lisa is blind to this whole situation, She is the Deputy Guardian with the County of San Luis Obispo and if fully aware of her requirements and responsibilities to perform her duties. She has done this with the County for several years, must hold certificates, permits, licenses, goes to County paid training sessions, advertised as a private vendor on the Internet (apparently she does this for more than CAPSLO which gives question as to how she has time to do her County paid employment) and claims to be well educated with her BS and MA. When you lay with the devil bad things can happen and no one should have pity for any of these money grabbers.

Apart from everything else about this story, is there a conflict of interest in the fact that Lisa N. is the Deputy Guardian and a county employee. Does that role involve implied or required oversight of the homeless program. Is the position Lisa holds with the county supposed to provide oversight on organizations like Family Ties. If so, her bosses should be brought up on charges of incompetence. Its getting deeper and wider. Funny, everyone is smart enough to know that our very own district attorney and his office will once again DO NOTHING.

Excellent work, Taxpayer! I wish I thought about that myself earlier. That thought comes around from time to time.

That is exactly how this town works. Clever political maneuvers to skirt blame, legally avoiding responsibility.

Also notice how organizations change their names, for example, the Economic Opportunity Commission (EOC) evolving into the Community Action Partnership (CAPSLO).

I’m always suspicious when those things occur. I question organizations here that are involved in any way with local government.

We must spread the word locally to this Family Ties/CAPSLO issue. The public must be made aware.


“If you have other sources of income, you can bring us money orders with a blank payee because we don’t know the name of the landlord yet to fill in the payee.”

If “blank money orders” have been collected by CAPSLO it is a NEON WARNING sign of a very reckless procedure that has little benefit to the Saver and real exposure of loss, theft, accountability, and/or embezzlement. Having proper procedures in place not only safeguards the homeless “saver” but also the employees.

It is very questionable whether it is even proper to handle money orders at all. But NEVER should a money order be left blank, without the benefit of a payee. At the very least each money order should be made payable in the saver’s name. All logged in w/ signatures of saver and employee, ledgers kept, accompanying backup data, triplicate receipts to ward against illegal and mismanaged funds.

I couldn’t agree with you more. No argument here.

That was just a hypothetical weaving in the information collected by Karen that some homeless people said they had to turn in money orders with the payee space left blank. Since those homeless on SSI/SA were referred to Family Ties and Family Ties became the Representative Payees, it appears that those with other forms of income were told to use the blank money order technique. Not a good scenario.

To: JQ

Yes. Agreed. No a good scenario at all.

On behalf of the frustrated homeless people I have met who are actively seeking help to better themselves with the help of Case Management, I want to thank you CalCoast News once again from the bottom of my heart for investigating this issue.

Now, if only the rest of the city’s population could be made aware. Only so many people are computer literate, and only so many have radios and can listen to or even know of the Dave Congleton show.

Keep up the good work..

Interesting, I just went to CAPSLO’s site (www.capslo.org) and see were they have a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the following contract of an Client Intake Program (see, they do know HOW to do this with a vendor, just not WHEN to do it):


RFP – Client Intake, Tracking and Reporting System

Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County is seeking proposals from qualified vendors for a comprehensive client intake and tracking system.

REQUEST FOR PROPOSAL – Client intake, tracking and reporting performance management system

Bidder’s Conference Information

Bidder’s conference will be held on Wednesday February 27, 2013 at 11am.


They do Request for Proposal for some functions of the organization but not

for others. Guess they felt someone dealing with a client’s money and

guardian of these funds don’t need to be vested and therefore no contract outlining duties, responsibilities, protection like license, insurnace, permits, etc. for the clients as well as CAPSLO’s was necessary.

CAPSLO crapped in the middle of the room and now they’re trying to walk away and leave everyone else standing in it. Placing an add for a new trustee doesn’t relieve them of their responsibility for setting up a bogus illegal trustee to begin with. CAPSLO has plenty of liability here.

John Ashbaugh says “The finances of CAPSLO are regularly audited and in my four years’ experience on their board, the audits have always found the financial statements of the organization to be completely in order” but there has never been an audit of client accounts only an audit of CAPSLO’s operating finances. Come on Mr Ashbaugh if you were really on the side of the people you would require an audit of all client accounts before you give anymore money to CAPSLO

I don’t know how CAPSLO could do that — get into the books of Family Ties, Inc’s client accounts which Family Ties manages as a SSI/SA Representative Payee. If there is no written contract with a clause saying they have a right to audit, it could be contested. However, once again, it may be implied since case managers do have obligations under Elder Abuse laws. Elder Abuse laws are separate, but similar to Social Security laws on the subject of being a financial fiduciary. The CAPSLO business model on their re-housing program is flawed when it comes to financial management.

Further, the issue of withholding all government funding for CAPSLO has been raised before, but not well answered. CAPSLO is a mega social services organization that does many functions government would otherwise have to do. Their re-housing program is a very, very small program compared to their other functions. Cutting off funding for thousands and thousands of vulnerable people who have nothing to do with the re-housing program would not be appropriate under any measure of political duty.

No, but new honest upstanding management, employee, board of directors could possibly save the name and respect this organization use to have before these vultures took it over.

John Ashbaugh may be a fine party-line councilman in Berkeley but I think SLO deserves better.

Also, just because an audit of CAPSLO’s finances was done does not mean that the accountant would have actually done anything to look for problems.

I know of an accountant who does annual audits of at least one CSD, and the CSD’s CFO actually said that she was surprised the accountant didn’t ask for any other records. She just gave him the records she wanted to, and he said “okay.”

81 people and a $60 million dollar budget!?


That would be shocking wouldn’t it.

No, it isn’t a $60 million dollar budget for 81 people. CAPSLO performs a lot of social programs, some of which would otherwise have to be done by government. That’s why they get government funding.

Go to their website and take a look. http://www.capslo.org/programs

Still a lot of money for what they do. But then, I would encourage everyone to look at the employee benefits. What organization is paying full coverage for health, dental, life, vision, etc. with no employee contributon. This organization is a scam as more than half of the $60 million goes to salaries.

End of discussion? They have a noble goal and cannot be questioned?

The case management clients are just a small part of CAPSLO. The point was I was trying to make was that if case management=money being funneled to Family Ties there could be a lot of money involved. if each of the adults had $400 a month withheld just run the numbers.

Mary Malone can you say WHITE COLLAR crime? Nothing but a bunch of thieves!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Throw Niesen, Torres and the rest of their useless asses in jail!! Notice how KSBY is scared to report on this?

Ahhhhhhhhhh “No Place like home”

Givemeabreak, please read the name to whom you are responding more carefully.

There is a poster her who has a screen name of “Harry Malone” (that is “Harry” with an “H”). It appears that is the person to whom you wished to reply.

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