San Luis Obispo’s homeless barred from services

April 19, 2013

homeless11By JOSH FRIEDMAN, KAREN VELIE and DANIEL BLACKBURN

Scores of homeless, barred from Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo’s homeless services, spend their days begging for food, looking for shelter and avoiding city police who target them.

CAPSLO receives more than $60 million in government funding and support each year to provide services to those in need, including San Luis Obispo’s homeless population. But, the homeless are required to follow a set of rules imposed under the tenure of Dee Torres, homeless services coordinator. If the homeless don’t follow the rules, they are suspended or barred from receiving help.

Peggy Fowler, a former 20-year employee CAPSO’s homeless services, says the refusal to provide food to homeless barred from services is not only cruel, but also increases the likelihood someone will resort to stealing in order to eat.

“Suspensions from homeless services are for violation of the rules which include throwing a cigarette butt on the ground or arriving five minutes early,” Fowler said. “I felt that making someone sleep in the dirt for failing to do a chore is wrong.”

The rules include a ban on giving food to homeless persons who have been suspended from the program, entering the Prado Day Center through the driveway on foot and failing to control the physical tics and other behaviors resulting from medical conditions or mental illnesses.

If a homeless person fails to follow Torres’ rules, she bars them from receiving meals and a place to sleep and shower, according to the program’s rules and dozens of citations CCN staff have viewed. Many of those barred are refused services for months or years because they are unable to make it through a laborious readmission process Torres has put into place, Fowler said.

“The individuals who are homeless have priorities like, ‘where can I go to the bathroom,’ ” Fowler said. “We are withholding services that are paid for by both the federal government and the local community. Their whole system and lack of recourse is not right. The punishment of refusing food and shelter is pretty severe considering the rules broken.”

Erica Merchado has received several suspensions from CAPSLO’s homeless services, despite having a terminal illness, former 30-year employee Estella Bonds said.

Merchado, 32, has Huntington’s disease, which causes her arms to make constant involuntary movements. She was diagnosed with Huntington’s when she was 21 and entered CAPSLO’s homeless services two years later, Merchado said. Merchado utilized the services for more than five years.

CAPSLO last suspended Merchado about three years ago for taking her lunch out of the Prado Day Center to the bus stop on Prado Road, Merchado said. Staff also suspended her for taking food from the day center to a suspended homeless client, Bonds said.

Merchado now sleeps under the Madonna Bridge and spends much of her day sitting outside Circle K on South Higuera Street with other homeless who beg for food.

One rule strictly enforced by CAPSLO prohibits the homeless from coming within an eighth of a mile, or 660 feet, of the Prado Day Center between 4 p.m. and 8:30 a.m. and within an eighth of a mile of the Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter between 7:00 a.m. and 5 p.m. Torres enforces the policy because her employees are afraid of the homeless, so she wants the homeless out of the area when employees are coming and going, she said.

If a staff member sees a homeless person, or even property belonging to a homeless person in the restricted area during those hours, it results in a suspension from services, according to CAPSLO rules. While suspended from services, the homeless can still incur more penalties. Many short suspensions compound into longtime bans, said Joette Sunshine, a former employee of homeless services who worked there for four years.

When a homeless person is suspended from services, that person is only allowed to enter the eighth of a mile zone surrounding both the day center and night shelter during one 15-minute time slot each day. If a homeless client wants obtain a print out of violations committed or acquire an application to re-enter services, the person must get in and out of the day center restricted area between 11:00 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. and the night shelter restricted area between 7:00 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. Failure to do so triggers an additional 30-day suspension.

Michael Pryor, an out-of-work computer technician and a former singer, received a 30-day suspension for cheating CAPSLO’s lottery system in an attempt to secure a bed in the shelter on a rainy night. Pryor used a ticket from an earlier night that someone had given him, and CAPSLO staff caught him.

Though Pryor received only a 30-day suspension, he is now suspended from services for 270 days because CAPSLO employees have spotted him within an eighth of a mile of the day center and night shelter outside of the 15-minute time slots, Pryor said.

Pryor sleeps outside. One day, he went to the shelter on a cold, rainy night to ask staff for a blanket. CAPSLO staff refused him a blanket and instead gave him an additional 30-day suspension for entering the restricted area.

Tiamoyo Peterson quit working for CAPSLO’s homeless services several years ago after taking her concerns of the treatment of the homeless to CAPLO’s CEO Elizabeth Steinberg, Peterson said.

Peterson, who has two masters degrees and a doctorate in social psychology, said she became concerned when Torres kicked out a homeless woman in her late 20s because the client was not always able to control her schizophrenia and would be obnoxious at times.

“It was (CAPSLO’s) position that Dee had a valid point of view and I shouldn’t have contradicted her,” Peterson said. “In this instance, the client’s behavior was obnoxious not dangerous. Dee believes that not only can a schizophrenic control their behavior, but that they should be punished when they cannot. Punishment for mental illness is inappropriate.”

Steinberg promoted Torres to the top position in homeless services around the same time a countywide Homeless Services Oversight Council was created.

In 2008, Torres’ boyfriend San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill became the founding chair of the Homeless Services Oversight Council, a group with a plan to end homelessness in 10 years by promoting a 200-bed shelter to be managed by Torres. Those staying at the shelter are to be required to give 50 to 70 percent of their income to case management allegedly to be used to get them into housing.

Several law enforcement agencies are looking into allegations that those managing the required savings accounts have been misappropriating the funds.

Together with San Luis Obispo City Councilman John Ashbaugh, Hill and Torres have worked to have the city and the police increase enforcement against homeless who refuse to enter case management.

Both Ashbaugh and Hill have regularly voted to provide government funding to CAPSLO. Ashbaugh sits on the CAPSLO board of directors and Hill is engaged to Torres but both men say there is no conflict of interest.

Earlier this year, the San Luis Obispo City Council voted to have police increase ticketing of homeless who do not participate in case management.

The SLO Downtown Association recently asked those in favor of supporting CAPSLO’s homeless services’ programs and who want the city to dedicate two police officers to focus on transients downtown to sign an online petition.

The city’s police department recently chose to implement a Community Action Team (CAT), composed of two officers who focus on transients in San Luis Obispo. Several local law enforcement personnel who say it is not constitutional to focus on a group of people and not their actions are referring to CAT as “Cops Against Transients.”

San Luis Obispo Chief of Police Steve Gesell says his department neither categorizes people, nor enforces the law based on status.

“We are trying to enforce the law equally but it would be foolish of us not to understand the dynamic of the homeless transient population,” Gesell said.

In 2012, San Luis Obispo police officers cited 605 people for breaking Penal Code 647(e) which makes it a misdemeanor to “lodge in any building, structure, vehicle or place, whether public or private, without the permission of the owner or the person entitled to the possession or in control of it.” In the rest of the county, only one person was cited for breaking Penal Code 647(e) in 2012, according to records requests received from all community and county law enforcement agencies.

Gesell says his department is utilizing 647(e) as a way to combat the environmental impact human waste from homeless campers has on the community. He refers to those homeless not utilizing CAPSLO’s services as program resistant.

SLO police officers are giving 647(e) citations to homeless found sleeping in parks, on benches or anywhere throughout the city. They also routinely roust homeless, including Merchado, who sit outside Circle K, even though customers of the convenience store and the adjacent Subway sandwich shop frequently buy them food.

On April 11, former CAPSLO employee Estella Bonds visited Merchado outside Circle K, and when a police officer arrived he not only scolded Merchado, but Bonds too.

Officer Eric Lincoln ordered Bonds to leave and told Merchado, “Come on, Erica. You know better.”

“If they’re running a homeless shelter, they’re not going to make any money,” Lincoln said. “They call. I come — kind of like the Domino’s Pizza Guy.”

Bonds told Officer Lincoln that she was not homeless and he stopped ordering her to leave the area.

Defending CAPSLO’s rules and penalties, Torres and Hill said at a SLO City Council meeting last year that homeless people need structure and management. After the meeting, former Councilman Andrew Carter said that the rule against being on Prado Road should be followed to discourage homeless from bothering business owners.

 


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mbactivist1

Kudos to Josh, Karen and Dan for refusing to be intimidated by Torres and her lawsuit threats, and for continuing to tell this story.


LAH

I agree with Alaska, keep the kids out of it. They are already paying the price for moms bad behavior. Kids always do. Not fair for them to have to endure even more than they already are.. Believe me when they are old enough they will research and find out what has gone down, and come across these articles and comments. The kids are innocent and will be devastated enough. I am sure they are already aware something is going on. Mom must be stressing out knowing the truth is hitting the fan”.


ReelView

If the homeless services here in America’s Happiest city, to help those in need, then I wonder why they have not helped the woman who lives in her wheelchair on Prado Rd. right around the corner from the Prado Day Center! I know. She doesn’t get any help because either she doesn’t have an income, or, she does have an income but refuses to give it to the theives!!


Why is it that there are so many able-bodied, healthy young men and women in the shelter, when it should be women and children first, the elderly, and the disabled!?


Cindy

Regarding the woman in the wheel chair. The last that I checked, there are people from the SLO First Assembly Church who have been helping her. The woman say’s she prefers to sleep outside in her wheelchair rather than deal with Torres and the shelter.


The SLO First Assembly Church has a long standing 501(3c) ministry called Homeward Bound. A group of homeless advocates sponsored by the church are currently ramping up a mobile program to solicit donations from many of the commercial outlets who donate to the homeless. The idea is to get the items to the people that the donations are intended for. Clothes, toiletries, blankets, rain coats, GIFT CARDS, etc. You will all be hearing about the Homeward Bound program comes early fall.


If I have my way, I’ll be filling the mobile unit up with added sandwiches for all who are hungry and someone will be parking it 660′ from the shelter everyday for an hour.


hijinks2

Saw this job posting at CMC and thought how appropriate?


LOw Career Opportunities

Job Title: Director of Community Services

Closing Date/Time: Fri. 04/26/13 5:00 PM Pacific Time

Bargaining Unit: Department Head

Class Code: 2550

Salary: $59.41 – $74.30 Hourly

$4,753.00 – $5,944.00 Biweekly

$10,298.17 – $12,878.67 Monthly

$123,578.00 – $154,544.00 Annually

Job Type: Full-time

Location: Luis Obispo, California

Performs highly responsible and professional work in planning, building and development review functions of the Supreme City. Responsible for misleading three citizen commissions and a broad range of public participation.

Supervision Received and Exercised:

Works under the general direction of the Supreme Leader.

Exercises supervision over professional, technical, and clerical personnel as assigned when not out riding their bicycle on City time or not exercising on City time.

Class Characteristics:

This position acts a Department Head.

Examples of Duties and Responsibilities:

(Any one position may not include all of the duties listed nor do all the listed examples include all tasks which may be found in positions of the class.)

• Experience in verbally denigrating staff highly desirable

Clear record of physically intimidating staff a plus,

Acts of physical violence desirable,

Plans, organizes, consults and demands staff in all aspects of public and private affairs.

• Responsible for the preparation, maintenance, and implementation of the Czars Plan and related elements.

• Establishes, maintains and interprets the Supreme Race Zoning Ordinance to regulate physical development in the City and to exclude undesirables, such as the homeless.

• Confers with architects, engineers, contractors, civic organizations and general public in the planning and development of appropriate projects per the Queens directive to ensure favoritism and cronyism.

• Exercises administrative supervision in the random inspection of buildings and structures and the enforcement of building codes and conformist codes at all hours of the day and night.

• Directs the preparation of the Supreme Rulers manuals outlining procedures required in evaluating planning or development proposals, and long range community planning activities to ensure the longevity of the Supreme Society.

• Coordinates efforts and represents the Supreme City with Housing Authority, County Airport Land Use Commission, Cal Poly University, Cuesta College, CAPSLO, Arian Brotherhood, and other public agencies.

• Prepares reports, data inventories and interpretations regarding environmental and/or economic impacts, resource or system deficiencies, suitable population and economic base, appropriate public facility design, construction inspection and random enforcement against less desirables.

• Prepares and administers the departmental budget to conceal agency misconduct.

• Formulates municipal policies relating to the physical, economic and social development of the supreme community to protect the interest of the elite of the Supreme Society.

• Responsible for environmental assessment for City and private projects and for administrative decisions on minor land use and subdivision requests in order to ensure that status quo.

• Coordinates planning and building responsibilities with other departments, particularly Public Works and Fire.

• Participates in preparation of the Capital Improvement Program, it’s implementation, and supervises the General Czar Plan Compliance process.

• As a participant on the City’s Management Team, assists the Supreme Ruler in the overall administrative and policy planning process of the City.

• Provides staff support to the architectural Review Commission, the Planning Commission, the Cultural Heritage Committee, Supreme Race Commission, and Ad Hoc committees such as the Student Housing Advisory Committee and Environmental Quality Task Force.

• Advises the Supreme Council and misleads the public on planning and development matters.

• Directs the recruitment, selection, advancement and assignment of personnel pursuant to the Supreme leader’s directives.

Knowledge and Abilities:

Knowledge of:

• Theories, principles and practices of governmental planning, zoning and social conformist policies and principles.

• State, County and City laws and regulations applicable to planning and building construction of a Supreme Society.

• Current trends in Federal, State, local planning in regards to developing a Supreme Society.

• Effective techniques of abusive supervision and administration, laws and policies.

Ability to:

• Prepare, revise and interpret a sound, innovative and imaginative planning program for the Supreme City.

• Recognize and ignores the need for awareness of and sensitivity to environmental issues and programs for economic and social consideration.

• Demands relationships with employees, other governmental and community organizations, and the public.

Education and Experience:

1. Educational experience not required,

2. Symptoms of POST highly desirable,

3. Documented and verifiable history of anger management issues desirable,

4. Prison experience a plus,

Possession and Maintenance of:

A valid California class C driver’s license and satisfactory driving record.

A valid Probation Report highly desirable

Please apply in person at the Supreme Leaders Throne


And readers wonder why no one in government cares.


karma2come

WTF???


Alaska64

I am absolutely appalled by this woman in so many different ways. I pray she is going to be held accountable in this terrible horrible drama. However lets not start in on the children. Yes they are her children but also they do have fathers that love them and dont want their lives played out and judged because of ther mothers actions. Horrible actions as they may be. Stop the comments about the kids. Thank you


PaulJones

I think people are bringing up her home life because it clearly indicates that she has some freaking serious psychological problems. I wouldn’t allow that woman to babysit my goldfish let alone care for children. What loving parent would subject their children to a revolving bedroom door of endless men? What decent woman has all her children by different men when she isn’t even married to them? Yes, I’m glad to hear that her children have fathers who love them, perhaps it will provide enough stability for some semblance of a balanced future for them if that’s even possible at this late date considering the insecure lifestyle that their mother has subjected them to.


It would appear that she isn’t capable of caring for anyone apart from her own wants, needs and selfish desires. The homeless are the last people that she should ever be entrusted with. That is one SICK PUPPY in my opinion. Get some therapy lady, you and Adam are a dangerous match that people write novels about.


KatieEvans

I’m not surprised to read any of this. Dee Torres lacks any semblance of reasonable academia to hold the position of Director of Homeless Services. Dee lacks the appropriate credentials in this field or any high functioning field of social services. She has obtained an AA certificate over the years however the majority of her completed units don’t pertain to the field of social services or psychology. Likewise she did attempt to further her education after transferring her AA credits to Cal-Poly but failed after her first year and she holds no graduate credentials as such.


Dee Torres simply isn’t competent to hold her position and lacks all applicable academia where servicing the needs of the mentality impaired is concerned. One can only wonder how it is that she holds this position as Director or any high functioning position within the social services program.


Alaska64

the directors before her were very caring active and respected directors. Third time is not a charm…despite many who advised against it, she was still appointed. Go figure.


slohomelessadvocate

Stacey, there were at least 5 Directors of Homeless Services prior to Dee.


Alaska64

I was around for catherine and jody…are you trying to blow my cover???? Lol


Alaska64

My name is not stacey. Not sure who you are but im not him or her.


Alaska64

Not stacey and I dont know him


msminiver

This conduct is just sickening and yet community leaders, like Ashbaugh, Hill, Litchig, Dietrick, Marx continue to run around like the kings and queens of their new social order, a kind of utopia wherein elitist rule their kingdom. So it is a crime to be homeless in SLO, it is a crime to have mental illness pretty soon it will be a crime to not be a part of the “supreme race”! And they have plenty of little good soldiers to facilitate their morally inept little deeds for a few crumbs (i.e. a paycheck). Apparently, a social conscious is lacking.


ReelView

Oh yeah, like I said before, she wants to control the behavior of the homeless, but can’t even control the obnoxious behavior of her kids when in public!


PaulJones

They’re obnoxious because she can’t promise them a Toms Toys gift card anymore to behave.


MarkJames

I would expect that the kids will continue to act out as they get older, just wait this is nothing. Those poor children all call a different man daddy and that doesn’t count the live in men that weren’t any of their fathers, I wonder what the kids called those guy’s ? My mothers boyfriend?


ReelView

ahhhhh…..I see my friend Eric Lincolns name again!!! Gee, and I thought I would never see that name again. I mean after all, he is SLOPD’s “friendliest” officer. In fact, I bet he’ll make the next chief of police, or perhaps even the next Sheriff! Hmmm….seems to me he has an extreme personal dislike for the homeless. After all, he “sleeps in a real bed”.


Let’s see, October 2, 2012, 3 individuals complained of harassment from Lincoln and his partner, in addition there happened to be two (2) witnesses. The incident was reported by NewTimes, and of course here on CCN. But of course, many didn’t believe the “allegations”. One comment by someone on here stated…”I doubt that police officers would jeopardize their career by harassing some homeless people”.


Of course nothing ever became of that incident. Cops cover their own. Unless of course their are not considered as part of the “boys club”.


Now I have never written long comments anywhere, and the fact is I hate to write a lot, (that’s what I do for a living…so go figure), but here goes. You see, you don’t have to be homeless to become a victim of harassment. SLOPD’s friendliest officer proves that, to me anyway. To those who have had positive encounteres with him, consider yourself lucky. It is individuals like him that is the reason I am no longer a public safety officer. I’ve heard to many times…”hey, let’s go mess with the homeless”, or “I don’t like the look of that kid, I’m gonna get him before the night is over”!! Anyway, with that said, if there are any of the homeless who read this, or any one for that matter who may encounter an unwanted visit from SLOPD’s friendliest, go ahead and file a complaint with the the PD. YES, do it anyway.

There are very few associations, which have the ability to effectively police the police. In many states, the Attorney General cannot get involved until after the local complaints have been filed, which means if the complaints are not accepted or denied, nothing will be done. Each state and county needs to have an independent association that the pubic can file complaints where they will be seriously investigated without the complaintant being harassed or intimated. There is a national database where complaints can be registered at http://www.policecomplaint.com/. This site has links to the FBI and Department of Justice task forces as well as to a civilian compliant center and the ACLU. It is a good resource, but none of them will prevent the abuse. The only way is insure the officers have personal as well as professional consequences. They can held responsible economically and legally for their actions. The only way this will be possible is for the public to step up. As with the students who used their cell phones to document, the public needs to speak out not only on the local level but also on the state. They need to report abuses to the Attorney General of their state and not allow the office to hide behind protocol. Writing letters to the editor, giving details of the abuse will also force the police to obey the civil rights laws. Don’t be afraid to speak up for others; you never know when you will be the one who needs a witness. The more who speak out, the more power the public has to protect itself against police intimation and harassment. Legislation needs to be passed that allows individuals to sue officers. In addition, officers, who are accused of a crime, cannot be investigated by their own department, but by the next level in the chain of command.


Lincoln has a very big personal problem, most likely because he can’t get any with one of the little poly dolly’s!! And all this behavior is accepted thanks in big part to our lovely City Council, and the hypocrit, two-faced woman who calls herself a mayor!


Not only do the homeless get suspended or even banned, they get NO food, they will not be allowed to pick up their mail (Federal offense?), and, they have to endure endless harassment by someone Like Lincoln who has his panties on too tight! Does anyone recall me writing any of this in previous comments??? Wasn’t that long before this recent story broke?


I can’t be everywhere at once, but one day, I WILL expose Lincoln!! I promise.


Cindy

Did Officer Lincoln arrest you for something? The problem with your post is that it sounds very personal and while you might be correct in your assertions, it’s difficult to separate your anger/bias from that of a bystander/citizen who is reporting their observations.


NuVo

The post may be biased but what post here isn’t. As for some of the info that is there it is informative as well as provides a place to make formal complaints if you have one.


ReelView

Cindy,

I was not arrested for anything. And you are correct, it is personal. I was simply doing my “work” one evening, and out of nowhere, I was approached by that fool. I cannot believe that an officer of the law..a “Peace” officer, can approach a total stranger and begin to curse, call them horrible names, and threaten them for no reason.


There were some trashy homeless parked on the street, people who are absolutey filthy, use a near-by parking lot of a business as their personal toilet, but were never approached by Lincoln and his partner. There were some homeless sleeping behind a building which I pointed out, which was also ignored. Lincoln and his partner were “having fun” that night. Whoever they saw, whoever was convenient, was their target.


I find it very offensive for a Peace officer to act in the way Lincoln acts, as I have previous experience as a public safety officer. Lincoln’s behavior is appaling!!


obispan

It has been 10+ years since my job involved interaction with the SLO police but I remember Eric Lincoln as level-headed and articulate.


MaryMalone

Cindy, this is similar to the “argument” CAPSLO’s supporters offered in rebuttal to the charges against their agency…that some of the witnesses were ex-employees and were carrying a grudge.


It doesn’t matter if the poster was a victim of police harassment or not. His/her argument should be taken on its own merit. If he did suffer harassment at the hands of the police then, yes, he would probably still be a little agitated about it. However, agitation when relating a harassment incident does not in itself lessen the value of the statement.


Homer

Your statement, somewhat predictably, leaves out the possibilty that the commenter is grinding his axe.


kettle

As does Homers statements, somewhat predictably, leaves out the possibility that the commenter is grinding his axe.


MaryMalone

You can call resentment for bad treatment what you like, but just because a person was the victim of harassment doesn’t mean their statements about their treatment is not valid.


Homer

MM, have you ever considered that someone who says they are the victim of bad treatment just might be, um, lying. I’m pretty sure there are a ton of people sitting in prison willing to share their stories of bad treatment.


kettle

Homer, have you ever considered that someone who says everything is fine at capslo might be pretending nothings wrong because of money?

.

Have you ever considered that someone might comment here in order to spin up some doubt?


Those are some of my tax dollars, we will get to the bottom of this.


Homer

It’s very strange how certain posts get removed, such as the one I posted earlier asking you to find any statement I’ve made that “says everything is fine at capslo.” Spin up doubt? If by that, you mean, ask questions that need asking, yes, that’s why I’m here.