Homeless director accused of pocketing donations

March 18, 2013

Dee Torres-Hill

KEEPING THEM HOMELESS

By KAREN VELIE, JOSH FRIEDMAN and DANIEL BLACKBURN

(Editor’s note: This is part of an ongoing series about San Luis Obispo County Homeless Services and the nonprofits managing the program.)

Homeless Services Coordinator Dee Torres routinely took gift cards intended for the needy and homeless for her own use, a number of former homeless service employees and ex-boyfriends say.

Torres kept the gift cards in her purse to use for family outings, gas, restaurants and Christmas presents for her friends, Ralph Almirol, the father of Torres’ middle child, said. Almirol said they especially enjoyed gift cards from Tom’s Toys on Higuera Street.

“We would give them to the kids,” Almirol said. “She used them like they were hers.”

Torres’ Homeless Services program comes under the umbrella of Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo (CAPSLO). Employees of both the Prado Day Center and the Maxine Lewis Shelter say that every Christmas, the homeless are remembered by the public with thousands of dollars in gift cards being donated for gas, groceries, restaurants and retail stores. All such donations are to be given to the homeless.

Almirol asked Torres about the cards and the homeless who were supposed to receive them, he said.

“People would give a lot of gift cards,” Almirol said. “I asked her once if she could get in trouble, she said there was no accounting for what is given, and most of them don’t deserve it.”

Other former boyfriends confirmed the allegations, though they wanted to remain unnamed because they are afraid that Torres or government officials will retaliate. Torres is engaged to San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill. At least one of Torres’ former husbands relied on his marriage to her to obtain legal resident status, CAPSLO staffers and Almirol said.

Friends of Prado President Roy Rawlings and Torres did not respond to comment requests.

Workers at the homeless shelters said that apart from the rare occasion when a client would do chores such as painting an office, the cards were not provided to the homeless.

“We never saw the gift cards given out,” said Kathy Marti, a former three-year employee of CAPSLO. “Once the gift cards came in she would take them.”

Marti said she quit in 2010 after battling for better treatment of the homeless.

“I was so disillusioned because I never saw any progress,” Marti said. “When I first started working there I loved it, I felt I could move heaven and earth.”

More than a dozen former and current employees of CAPSLO said that Torres refused to give donated goods to the homeless unless they would do chores for her.

“There was so much stuff coming in,” said Carina Salazar, a former CAPSLO employee. “There was all kinds of stuff donated. A lot of stuff got tossed. We went over to the (CAPSLO) main office to complain, but no one would listen.”

Almirol said Torres would divvy up the best donations for family and friends.

“We would go through the donations and pick out the best toys for our kids,” Almirol said. “She would give other stuff to her friends.”

Employees and clients also question CAPSLO’s rule that homeless individuals must provide 50 to 70 percent of their income to CAPSLO in order to guarantee a bed at the shelter.

Richard Walker and his family turned to CAPSLO after they became homeless. CAPSLO required the Walkers, who were on welfare, to pay about $500 a month in cash to the family’s case manager, Walker said.

Despite paying CAPSLO approximately $500 a month, the Walkers still struggled to get necessities, such as baby diapers, from Torres, he said.

“We had to fight with them to buy things for our baby like diapers or rash cream,” Walker said. “We told Dee (Torres) we needed diapers. She told us to get diapers through them, but she would only give us three at a time and then she would get angry when we asked for more.”

After spending about a year and a half in the shelter on case management, the family decided to cancel so they would have enough money to purchase diapers and other necessities, Walker said. But Walker said his family did not receive all of the money they had signed over to case management.

“She gave us most of our money back in a check. She kept the $25 a month they charged us for holding on to it,” he said.

By opting out of case management, the family chose to take their chances on getting beds each night at the Maxine Lewis Homeless Shelter.

CAPSLO requires clients at the Maxine Lewis Homeless Shelter to be waiting outside by 5 p.m. though they may not enter the shelter until 6 p.m. Homeless clients not on case management draw a ticket out of a bucket for a chance to stay the night.

One night, the Walkers drew the right number, but CAPSLO staff told them they still could not stay at the shelter because their eight-month-old had pink eye, Walker said. They asked Torres to provide them a motel voucher. But Torres told the family they could not stay in a motel because they had a car in which to sleep.

“She said ‘no hotel, you have a car,’” Walker said. “Then she gave a hotel room to a man who had just had Lasik surgery.”

Joette Sunshine, a four-year employee of CAPSLO who has left her job, said she was working that night and witnessed the events. Sunshine said she was distressed that a family of four with a sick child was not provided a hotel room, while a man who could afford an expensive eye procedure was.

“Part of the deal not to be able to get a hotel room was if you had a vehicle and a certain income,” Sunshine said. “This man had more than $1,200 a month in income and a van. The motel money was there for people who needed it, yet the Walkers were denied a hotel room.”

Several years ago, the Walkers got into housing on their own, though they said that CAPSLO lists them as one of their housing “success” stories.

 

Keeping Them Homeless, the series.


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gardenslo

Karen should speak to the ladies from Sisters Serving Sisters about the gift cards they collected from each of their churches and other local churches for Christmas for the homeless a few years ago and Dee Torres and Della Wagner’s reaction when they found out the Sisters had hidden the gift cards in little gift bags filled with personal hygiene items that were passed out to the homeless instead of giving the gift cards directly to Torres and Wagner.


MaryMalone

I bet Torres had planned her Christmas shopping around stealing those gift cards.


lakerhater

I have been following this story since it’s inception on Cal Coast News and this latest installment has me speechless. What type of person would spend donations on themselves? If it has been a pattern for Dee to spend the gift cards on herself, her family, and friends then Adam Hill must be aware of what she is doing. If these allegations are indeed true, which I have no reason to doubt, then Mr. Hill needs to resign immediately. No wonder He and Dee have been on the attack. He must have known that this would come out and would lead directly to him and his fiance.


MaryMalone

ITA. If this was really in any way libelous, and Hill and Torres would have filed against CCN already.


It’s kinda late to claim “libel” now that so many articles have been published and shared around the county.


Besides, I think the LAST thing either of those two want is to open themselves to the legal process of discovery.


Pelican1

The statute of limitations for libel or slander in California is one year.


kettle

MaryMalone says: “Besides, I think the LAST thing either of those two want is to open themselves to the legal process of discovery.”


Discovery of Adams email folders………


Pelican1

If these allegations are true, Ms. Torres should indeed be arrested and tried for the crimes she’s committed.

If found guilty, she should be sentenced to a life of homelessness.


Jorge Estrada

These allegations are very disturbing because most profession would require instant termination for the misapproapriation of funds. Should these allegations be true, the damage to local philanthropy will escalate. This is definately a double edge sword and one more reason to just do as you can when you can, for others who ask.


SLOthinker

I think we are rapidly approaching the the tipping point where the local DA Gerald Shea is going to have to start an investigation. This is going to one political hot potato.


I tried to look up a link for people to email the DA, but this is what I found:


E-mail: Email to the District Attorney’s Victim/Witness Assistance Center has been temporarily deactivated due to technical difficulties. To contact the Victim/Witness Assistance Center, please call 1-805-781-5821 or Toll- Free 1-866-781-5821 Courthouse Annex Room 384

San Luis Obispo, CA 93408


How convenient


MaryMalone

Having the local DA do the investigation would be, at best, a mixed blessing. The investigation would undoubtedly be found “inconclusive,” and then Hill and Torres would immediately start braying that they had been found innocent.


Rambunctious

Oh boy…. the stuff is going to hit the fan now….Dee? you have some splainin to do…


Dave

Karen Velie will discuss this story tonight at 5:05 on KVEC 920AM. Listen live on line at http://www.920kvec.com or download the KVEC app and listen anywhere.


MaryMalone

Hot-diggidy.


kayaknut

I’m sure Karen will also discuss this story along with any new details that surface this week, during her regular show on KYNS 1340 this Friday at 12 noon. She will likely also talk about all her stories.


MaryMalone

Clearly, Adam Hill’s floozy, Dee Torres, felt she could do anything she wanted, without repercussion.


I wonder why she felt that way? It seems she was getting quite a bit of “protection” from SLO Co Supervisor Adam Hill, but I wonder who gave her “protection” BEFORE her illicit affair with Hill?


taxpayer

So how many free meal, paid for with homeless gift cards, have Dee Torres and Adam Hill shared together?


MaryMalone

EXACTLY.


I’m wondering how many she used at Victoria Secrets.


Ted Slanders

Mary,


First thing, we know you’re just kidding, but to even proffer this scenario in the first place is ungodly if it was true, because what homeless person would want their merchandise over real necessities? I will pray for you tonight.


I don’t even go out of my way anymore to walk by Victoria’s Secret since they removed those suggestive mannequins from their windows. It’s sad that things have to change sometimes.


MaryMalone

I assumed Torres bought them for AH to wear.