SF Bay Area Indymedia indymedia
Indybay About Contact Newsletter Calendar Publish Community

Santa Cruz Indymedia | U.S. | Government & Elections | Health, Housing, and Public Services

Mayor Don Lane opens conversation about Homeless Services Center and River St. Shelter
by John E. Colby
Tuesday Jun 19th, 2012 8:29 AM
Yesterday morning, on June 18, 2012, Mayor Don Lane left me a voicemail inviting me to converse with him on issues I have about the Homeless Services Center (HSC) and the River Street Emergency Shelter (RSES). Because I deeply believe in open, transparent government which is held accountable for its actions or lack of action, I am opening this up as a public conversation with my email response to Mayor Lane's invitation for a (personal) conversation. I hope that Mayor Lane will not take offense, but rather will rise to the occasion by conversing with not just me, but all Santa Cruz citizens who have concerns about the HSC and the RSES, and about homelessness in general.

Attached are photographs of wheelchair bound homeless individual Steve Lazow who I successfully advocated for to be reinstated at the Paul Lee Loft shelter at the HSC. Also attached are certificates authorizing me to represent/advocate for Mr. Lazow, and two other disabled homeless people who are staying at the Paul Lee Loft shelter at the HSC. Both of them, Ron Skinner and Megan Andrea Morgan, use walkers. I have also attached disability accommodation requests they made to the HSC and the RSES under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 (of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) and the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA).

I hope the unfolding story of these three disabled homeless individuals fighting for their civil rights opens up a fertile public conversation about disabled individuals who make up the majority of the chronically homeless in Santa Cruz County.

I honestly hope that Mayor Lane will engage the public, not just me, in a conversation about these issues.
June 19, 2012

Mayor Don Lane
809 Center Street, Room 10
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Tel: 831.420.5020

via email to: dlane [at] cityofsantacruz.com
cc: citycouncil [at] cityofsantacruz.com
cc: JBarisone [at] abc-law.com
cc: mbernal [at] cityofsantacruz.com
cc: cberg [at] cityofsantacruz.com
cc: John.McCarty [at] hud.gov
cc: Lester.Davis [at] hud.gov
cc: Richard.Salom [at] hud.gov
cc: Clifford.Taffet [at] hud.gov
cc: Helen.R.Kanovsky [at] hud.gov
cc: Ophelia.B.Basgal [at] hud.gov
cc: Maria.F.Cremer [at] hud.gov
cc: kimberly.y.nash [at] hud.gov
cc: Nancy.deSerpa [at] mail.house.gov
cc: Adam.Spickler [at] asm.ca.gov
cc: jgrow [at] nhlp.org
cc: Neil Donovan c/o info [at] nationalhomeless.org
cc: Katie Sullivan c/o nfha [at] nationalfairhousing.org
cc: mcollier [at] sfchronicle.com
cc: achance [at] sacbee.com
cc: dbutler [at] mercurynews.com
cc: white [at] kpix.cbs.com
cc: 4listens [at] kron4.com
cc: assignmentdesk [at] kqed.org
cc: contact [at] pacifica.org
cc: garcher [at] gtweekly.com
cc: terry [at] calaware.org
cc: pscheer [at] firstamendmentcoalition.org 

re: My most urgent issues with the Santa Cruz Homeless Services Center (HSC) and River Street Emergency Shelter (RSES)

Dear Mayor Lane:

I want to thank you for offering to converse with me about my most urgent issues with the Santa Cruz Homeless Services Center (HSC) and the River Street Emergency Shelter (RSES), as per your message left on my voicemail yesterday morning, June 18, 2012. As you know, I deeply believe in governmental transparency, openness and accountability. Thus I prefer to carry out our conversation in the open, where nothing is hidden and nothing can be misunderstood.

I am currently (officially) advocating for the following individuals, with more individuals to follow.

• Steve Lazow — he is confined to a wheelchair and is in a great deal of pain. This makes it difficult for him to advocate for himself and to communicate with and understand medical/social service providers. Mr. Lazow was evicted a week ago last Sunday from the Paul Lee Loft shelter for exercising his disability rights. His friend Mia Dellarosa was evicted from the Paul Lee Loft for assisting Mr. Lazow in exercising his disability rights. The Paul Lee Loft shelter staff violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 (of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973), and the federal Fair Housing Act, discriminating against both Mr. Lazow and Ms. Dellarosa by making them homeless for exercising Mr. Lazow's disability rights. Moreover, Paul Lee Loft shelter staff violated the requirements of their HUD block grant money by not providing Mr. Lazow and Ms. Dellarosa their due process rights in receiving written explanations when a federal benefit has been rescinded and then being allowed to appeal the revocation of their federal benefits. This systemic misbehavior places the Paul Lee Loft shelter's HUD funds at risk. About a week ago, Mr. Lazow suffered a seizure after being rehoused at the Paul Lee Loft shelter — it is fortunate that I emailed you to resolve his eviction so that he was in the shelter when his seizure occurred. I asked HSC Executive Director Monica Martinez to ensure his wheelchair and possessions were safeguarded while Mr. Lazow was hospitalized. Mr. Lazow returned to find that some of his belongings had been taken, most notably some pain medicines, his jacket and his shoes. While Mr. Lazow said he has a medical appointment this week so that he can obtain more pain medicines, he is suffering in great pain: from my observation he is not totally lucid at present. Mr. Lazow has not had shoes for several days. Imagine using a public toilet stall or entering private businesses with only socks on your feet: this is unsanitary; it is demeaning. I emailed Ms. Martinez requesting an investigation into this theft with no results to date. Mr. Lazow has been chronically homeless, to my understanding, for the last ten years. He has not had (semi) permanent housing to his understanding for many, many years.

• Ron Skinner — he uses a walker and has other medical conditions making it difficult for him to advocate for himself or to communicate with and understand medical/social service providers. Mr. Skinner is physically and emotionally fragile: he cannot survive being unhoused on the streets.

• Megan Andrea Morgan — she uses a walker too. Ms. Morgan has chronic fatigue and extreme pain from several medical conditions, making it difficult for her to advocate for herself because she is just too tired and pained to be functional. Ms. Morgan has been chronically homeless, to my understanding, for the last three years since she lost a Section 8 voucher. Ms. Morgan suffers from several very serious medical conditions — she cannot survive on the streets. Ms. Morgan's primary care physician wrote a disability accommodation request letter asking that she be granted extended shelter so that tests could be performed to determine the cause of her serious medical conditions. This request has not been fulfilled, stopping Ms. Morgan from having these tests performed. Ms. Morgan requires a horizontal cushioned place, like a couch or bed, to rest during the day because she requires more rest than the Paul Lee Loft shelter allows her during its open hours. Consequently I composed an immediate disability accommodation request on her behalf, which she signed, to alleviate her chronic exhaustion. Ms. Morgan's present condition threatens her ability to benefit from and potentially to participate in the services of the Paul Lee Loft shelter. This immediate disability accommodation request was faxed and emailed to Ms. Martinez early yesterday morning, June 18, 2012 around 5 AM. We have not yet received any response about this request, or in fact about any of the disability accommodation requests for Mr. Lazow, Mr. Skinner and Ms. Morgan made over the last week.

As a refresher on the issues I brought to your attention which have not all been resolved, please read the following article I published on Santa Cruz Indybay after Mr. Lazow was evicted from the Paul Lee Loft shelter:

http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/06/11/18715157.php

Please view photographs of Mr. Lazow today without shoes while suffering in great pain. It took him about fifteen minutes to make his way from the Paul Lee Loft shelter to the HSC entrance — where these photographs were taken — about 200 feet away. Mr. Lazow can only move very slowly in his wheelchair. It can easily be observed that Mr. Lazow is suffering in great pain because he is not completely lucid — Mr. Lazow informed me that he is suffering in pain.

Mr. Lazow's righthand side pants are pulled up so that he can use them as leverage to pick up his leg. It is clear that Mr. Lazow is severely physically disabled. He cannot survive on the streets. That he has survived this long while being chronically homeless, bouncing from one shelter bed to the next, is a miracle. His luck may run out.

My main issue at the moment with HSC Executive Director Monica Martinez is that she refuses to recognize me as an advocate and representative for her clients, claiming that HSC clients require court ordered requests to retain an advocate and representative. Her staff refuses to provide me a written copy of this policy so that I may share it with the federal government, an attorney and the news media. I believe her claimed policy is illegal, not only under disability laws like the ADA, Section 504 and the Fair Housing Act, but also under laws which allow people to retain others, like family members, as representatives and advocates for them. Clearly Mr. Lazow, Mr. Skinner and Ms. Morgan require assistance in exercising their disability rights, to remain sheltered, to gain more permanent housing and to obtain adequate medical treatment. Ms. Martinez is impeding me from assisting them in exercising their disability rights under the aforementioned laws.

Until Ms. Martinez recognizes me as a representative and advocate for her clients, I can't even get past square one in ensuring they are sheltered and gain more permanent housing for them so that they do not bounce from one crisis to the next, with being unhoused on the streets hanging over their heads like a sword of Damocles.

This issue must be resolved immediately.

Beyond that the following issues must be immediately addressed:

• Mr. Lazow's immediate disability accommodation request to allow persons of his choice, male or female, to assist him in showering must be granted. Until then he is unable to shower.

• Ms. Morgan's immediate disability accommodation request for a horizontal rest space during the day on the HSC campus — while the HSC campus shelters are closed to residents — must be granted to provide her a bed or couch to rest upon. If this is not granted, she will suffer needlessly to the point of not being able to participate in the Paul Lee Loft shelter program.

• The HSC and the River Street Emergency Shelter (RSES) must provide me with records about Mr. Lazow, Mr. Skinner and Ms. Morgan. All of them are willing to sign releases which would be acceptable to their physicians to release information to me. I cannot adequately advocate for them all until I understand their history of homelessness, what services they have used and are presently being provided. Mr. Skinner and Ms. Morgan signed releases for me to gain access to all of their records from the RSES, but RSES program manager Tracey Heggum still refuses to release their information to me. This must be resolved immediately before Mr. Lazow, Mr. Skinner and Ms. Morgan are forced back onto the streets.

• Santa Cruz City Housing Programs Manager Carol Berg has not responded to my complaint about the illegal eviction of Mr. Lazow and Ms. Dellarosa, as well as the Paul Lee Loft shelter's denial of due process rights in taking away federal benefits funded in part by HUD block grants to the City of Santa Cruz. Paul Lee Loft shelter staff are not providing beneficiaries with written explanations when they are being evicted for alleged program violations, nor are they given opportunities to appeal their evictions. Ms. Berg is required by your own citizen participation plan to investigate complaints about HUD HOME and CDBG grant providers administered by the City of Santa Cruz. I ask for the required investigation concluding with a formal letter of findings and, if appropriate, correction of HUD program violations.

Once these issues are addressed satisfactorily, we can correspond about deeper systemic problems with the HSC and the RSES. I believe this email describes my most pressing issues with the Santa Cruz HSC, its executive director Monica Martinez, the RSES, and its program manager Tracey Heggum.

Please inspect the PDF attachments of the certificates authorizing my representation/advocacy and the immediate disability accommodation requests Mr. Lazow, Mr. Skinner and Ms. Morgan have made to HSC Executive Director Monica Martinez and RSES Program Manager Tracey Heggum. No responses to these immediate accommodations have been forthcoming, setting the stage for further disability rights violations of the ADA, Section 504 and the Fair Housing Act. They may also be viewed using the following links to Google Docs.

Certificates authorizing representation/advocacy:

http://tinyurl.com/6pk6or2

http://tinyurl.com/8xzfrcu

http://tinyurl.com/7wmgt3y

Mr. Lazow's immediate disability accommodation requests:

http://tinyurl.com/7u9suv7

http://tinyurl.com/7cavfbo

http://tinyurl.com/d6hffpj

http://tinyurl.com/7q3tahz

Mr. Skinner's immediate disability accommodation requests:

http://tinyurl.com/7s7cpcj

http://tinyurl.com/7v3apjf

Ms. Morgan's immediate disability accommodation requests:

http://tinyurl.com/8ayj94r

http://tinyurl.com/79dg2m9

http://tinyurl.com/cgox5j2

I appreciate actions by you, the City Council and Santa Cruz city staff to forestall my clients' disability rights being violated further. Thank you for your sincere concern about disability rights and HUD program requirements at the HSC and the RSES. I look forward to your response.

Sincerely yours,
John E. Colby, Ph.D.
§Shoeless Steve Lazow at HSC
by John E. Colby Tuesday Jun 19th, 2012 8:29 AM

§Shoeless Steve Lazow at HSC
by John E. Colby Tuesday Jun 19th, 2012 8:29 AM

§Shoeless Steve Lazow at HSC
by John E. Colby Tuesday Jun 19th, 2012 8:29 AM

§Shoeless Steve Lazow at HSC
by John E. Colby Tuesday Jun 19th, 2012 8:29 AM

§Shoeless Steve Lazow at HSC
by John E. Colby Tuesday Jun 19th, 2012 8:29 AM

§Certificate to represent/advocate for Steve Lazow
by John E. Colby Tuesday Jun 19th, 2012 8:29 AM

§Certificate to represent/advocate for Ron Skinner
by John E. Colby Tuesday Jun 19th, 2012 8:29 AM

§Certificate to represent/advocate for Megan Andrea Morgan
by John E. Colby Tuesday Jun 19th, 2012 8:29 AM








Mr. Colby:

The City of Santa Cruz provides CDBG funding to assist in the operation of the Homeless Services Center (HSC) Day Center, including the Paul Lee Loft Shelter. The City’s responsibility is to periodically monitor the program to ensure that the Program is meeting program goals and is in compliance with the CDBG Program contract they have with the City. Our review of the HSC Day Center has shown that the Homeless Services Center provides an invaluable resource for the homeless in the City of Santa Cruz and that it is operated in a manner that is consistent with their contract with the City. I did speak with the Director and she indicated that the situation that you commented on in the article was resolved through their regular process. We do not intend to pursue the matter further. Since I have no further information to provide you with in connection with this matter, I will not engage in any further future correspondence or communications with you regarding it.

Carol Berg
(831) 420-5108

From: John E.Colby [mailto:colby [at] docktorcat.com]
Sent: Sunday, June 17, 2012 11:11 AM
To: Carol Berg
Cc: City Council; Bonnie Lipscomb; Norman Daly; "Mercedes M. Márquez"; Helen R. Kanovsky; Maria F. Cremer; Larry Wuerstle; Kimberly Y. Nash; Nancy DeSerpa; Elizabeth Limbach; James R. Grow; Katie Sullivan; Neil Donovan
Subject: How are you going to investigate my complaint against the Homeless Services Center?

June 17, 2012

Carol Berg
Housing Program Manager
Economic Development and Redevelopment
337 Locust Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Tel: 831.420.5108

via email to: cberg [at] cityofsantacruz.com
cc: citycouncil [at] cityofsantacruz.com
cc: blipscomb [at] cityofsantacruz.com
cc: ndaly [at] cityofsantacruz.com
cc: Mercedes.M.Marquez [at] hud.gov
cc: Helen.R.Kanovsky [at] hud.gov
cc: Maria.F.Cremer [at] hud.gov
cc: larry.wuerstle [at] hud.gov
cc: kimberly.y.nash [at] hud.gov
cc: Nancy.deSerpa [at] mail.house.gov
cc: elizabeth [at] gtweekly.com
cc: jgrow [at] nhlp.org
cc: Katie Sullivan c/o nfha [at] nationalfairhousing.org
cc: Neil Donovan c/o info [at] nationalhomeless.org

re: How are you going to investigate my complaint against the Homeless Services Center?

Dear Ms. Berg:

I am writing to request a written response about how your Santa Cruz agency plans to address the issues I raised in my email to the City Council copied below. Please read the news article I published about this on Santa Cruz Indybay last Monday:

http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/06/11/18715157.php

Question: how are you going to investigate this complaint against the Santa Cruz Homeless Services Center?

Thank you for promptly providing me a written response by email, facsimile, or by snail mail.

Sincerely yours,
John E. Colby, Ph.D.

email: colby [at] docktorcat.com

telephone: 831.471.9767
cellphone: 831.419.1521
fax: 831.218.4121

postal address:
849 Almar Avenue, Suite C–242
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
June 19, 2012

Don Lane
Mayor
City of Santa Cruz

via email to: dlane [at] cityofsantacruz.com
cc: citycouncil [at] cityofsantacruz.com
cc: blipscomb [at] cityofsantacruz.com
cc: cberg [at] cityofsantacruz.com

re: Response to your explanation about my concerns regarding the HSC (and the RSES)

Dear Mayor Lane:

First off, I thank you for communicating with me in response to the issues I raised today with the Santa Cruz Homeless Services Center (HSC) and, although you did not mention it, the River Street Emergency Shelter (RSES). These issues can be referenced from the link to Santa Cruz Indymedia below:

http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/06/19/18715777.php

From my understanding, which may change as I gather information from the City of Santa Cruz and HUD, Santa Cruz administers CDBG block grant funds to the HSC and to the RSES. This HUD funding comes along with responsibilities in administering and doling it out. Thus to my present understanding, I disagree that "the City has no formal role in your complaint with the two shelters."

Your claim that my work as an advocate/representative will somehow cost these service providers money (thereby hurting their other clients) seems specious to me. First, these disability accommodations must be reasonable ones which do not cause an undue financial burden on the party being asked to make the accommodations. That is the law. Second, following the ADA, the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Section 504 (of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) are part and parcel of being a homeless shelter. Should disabled homeless people cede their legally entitled rights just because a provider is short on funding? Perhaps this should serve as a clarion call to the City and County of Santa Cruz to adequately fund these shelters so that they can follow the law. Finally, how would recognizing me as an advocate/representative for HSC and RSES clients cost anyone any money?

If the HSC and the RSES cannot accommodate clients with serious medical needs then they should be referring them to medical facilities which can. They are in a better position than I am to assess my clients' medical needs because they refuse to share their files with me. If I had their files, like Steve Lazow's, I might advocate, as I plan to in Mr. Lazow's case, that they be housed in a medical facility like a nursing home. By refusing to cooperate with me by providing legally releasable information, the HSC and the RSES are shooting themselves in the foot. I have my clients' best interests at heart: if they can be better served in a medical facility then I will advocate for that to happen. But I can't do anything until the HSC and the RSES acknowledge me as an official advocate/representative for their clients and release their records to me as allowed by law, as a physician's office would. For example, I just spoke with Mr. Lazow's treating physician's office and they are going to facilitate having Mr. Lazow sign forms to allow them to release his medical information to me and for me to speak with his physician. It would be very helpful if the HSC and the RSES would cooperate with me in a similar manner.

I would like to reiterate one thing: the HSC and the RSES are bound to follow the law in adhering to the ADA, the FHA and Section 504. There are no ifs and buts about that. If they cannot abide by the law in protecting disabled homeless people's civil rights then they have no place providing services to the homeless.

I hope this clarifies my positions. Thank you for thoughtfully considering what I have written.

Respectfully yours,
John E. Colby, Ph.D.

email: colby [at] docktorcat.com

telephone: 831.471.9767
cellphone: 831.419.1521
fax: 831.218.4121

postal address:
849 Almar Avenue, Suite C–242
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

June 20, 2012

Monica Martinez, M.P.A.
Executive Director
Homeless Services Center
115 Coral Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Tel: 831.458.6060 ext. 2103

via email to: mmartinez [at] scshelter.org
cc: mcarlson [at] scshelter.org
cc: dlane [at] cityofsantacruz.com
cc: citycouncil [at] cityofsantacruz.com
cc: JBarisone [at] abc-law.com
cc: mbernal [at] cityofsantacruz.com
cc: cberg [at] cityofsantacruz.com
cc: Maria.F.Cremer [at] hud.gov
cc: kimberly.y.nash [at] hud.gov
cc: Nancy.deSerpa [at] mail.house.gov
cc: Adam.Spickler [at] asm.ca.gov
cc: mcollier [at] sfchronicle.com
cc: achance [at] sacbee.com
cc: dbutler [at] mercurynews.com
cc: white [at] kpix.cbs.com
cc: 4listens [at] kron4.com
cc: assignmentdesk [at] kqed.org
cc: contact [at] pacifica.org
cc: garcher [at] gtweekly.com
cc: jgrow [at] nhlp.org
cc: Katie Sullivan c/o nfha [at] nationalfairhousing.org

re: Outstanding immediate disability accommodation requests and representation/advocacy certificates

Dear Ms. Martinez:

Attached are all the outstanding immediate disability accommodation requests and representation/advocacy authorization certificates which you have ignored. Please add Mr. Stan Willis's immediate disability accommodation request — he is dying from colon cancer — to the pending immediate disability accommodation requests awaiting your response. Please add Ms. Mia Angela Dellarosa's certificate to the pending authorization certificates I have faxed/emailed to you.

Sincerely yours,
John E. Colby, Ph.D.

email: colby [at] docktorcat.com
telephone: 831.471.9767
cellphone: 831.419.1521
fax: 831.218.4121

postal address:
849 Almar Avenue, Suite C–242
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Attachments:

http://tinyurl.com/76jjm5g

http://tinyurl.com/7fplg64
Note:

1. I did not assume that the Homeless Services Center (HSC) and the River Street Emergency Shelter (RSES) were discriminating against disabled homeless people. These were conclusions I came to after interviewing their disabled clients.

2. Reasonable accommodation requests are not demands. Disabled individuals are entitled by law to request disability accommodations — they are not demanding anything. They are merely accommodation requests which a service provider can accept, deny or negotiate about.

3. It is normal for advocates to work with agencies in writing. If there is a paper trail then there can be no questions about what transpired, and thus no misunderstandings. Moreover, service providers cannot be held accountable for their actions or lack of action if there is no paper trail. Usually disability accommodation requests are made in writing and one receives responses to these requests in writing — this is what HUD recommends. I have advocated with numerous government agencies — they have never coerced me to not do business in writing. Only the City of Santa Cruz, the HSC and the RSES seem to have issues with this. Why is that?


Dear Mr. Colby,

Thought I’d comment quickly on these items:
 
“Perhaps this should serve as a clarion call to the City and County of Santa Cruz to adequately fund these shelters so that they can follow the law.”

We certainly have common ground on this one… I have spend much of my life working toward the end of having adequate funding for these shelters.  However, I do think you start from the questionable assumption that the shelters are not following the law and I do not share that assumption.
 
"Finally, how would recognizing me as an advocate/representative for HSC and RSES clients cost anyone any money?"

I don’t see the issue as your recognition… it is the actual time spent addressing all of the formal demands you make several times each week.  I wonder if you have any conception as to how much time and energy (and money, once it gets legalistic and requires attorney time) it takes to work with all the demands you make once you enter into a process like this.  This time and energy and money will either be used dealing with your demands or dealing with actual services at the agency.  As you may recall, my plea was not for you to drop your concerns and your advocacy… it is simply to work in a way that might expeditiously get to a positive outcome.  I believe this is more likely to happen with less formality on the front end.
 
Thanks again for your consideration.
 
Don Lane
Mayor
City of Santa Cruz
 
From: John E. Colby [mailto:colby [at] docktorcat.com] 
Sent: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 9:19 PM
To: Don Lane
Cc: City Council; Bonnie Lipscomb; Carol Berg
Subject: Response to your explanation about my concerns regarding the HSC (and the RSES)
 
June 19, 2012
 
Don Lane
Mayor
City of Santa Cruz
Tel: 831.420.5022
 
via email to: dlane [at] cityofsantacruz.com
cc: citycouncil [at] cityofsantacruz.com
cc: blipscomb [at] cityofsantacruz.com
cc: cberg [at] cityofsantacruz.com
 
re: Response to your explanation about my concerns regarding the HSC (and the RSES)
 
Dear Mayor Lane:
 
First off, I thank you for communicating with me in response to the issues I raised today with the Santa Cruz Homeless Services Center (HSC) and, although you did not mention it, the River Street Emergency Shelter (RSES). These issues can be referenced from the link to Santa Cruz Indymedia below:
 
http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/06/19/18715777.php
 
From my understanding, which may change as I gather information from the City of Santa Cruz and HUD, Santa Cruz administers CDBG block grant funds to the HSC and to the RSES. This HUD funding comes along with responsibilities in administering and doling it out. Thus to my present understanding, I disagree that "the City has nor formal role in your complaint with the two shelters."
 
Your claim that my work as an advocate/representative will somehow cost these service providers money (thereby hurting their other clients) seems specious to me. First, these disability accommodations must be reasonable ones which do not cause an undue financial burden on the party being asked to make the accommodations. That is the law. Second, following the ADA, the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Section 504 (of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) are part and parcel of being a homeless shelter. Should disabled homeless people cede their legally entitled rights just because a provider is short on funding? Perhaps this should serve as a clarion call to the City and County of Santa Cruz to adequately fund these shelters so that they can follow the law. Finally, how would recognizing me as an advocate/representative for HSC and RSES clients cost anyone any money?
 
If the HSC and the RSES cannot accommodate clients with serious medical needs then they should be referring them to medical facilities which can. They are in a better position than I am to assess my clients' medical needs because they refuse to share their files with me. If I had their files, like Steve Lazow's, I might advocate, as I plan to in Mr. Lazow's case, that they be housed in a medical facility like a nursing home. By refusing to cooperate with me by providing legally releasable information, the HSC and the RSES are shooting themselves in the foot. I have my clients' best interests at heart: if they can be better served in a medical facility then I will advocate for that to happen. But I can't do anything until the HSC and the RSES acknowledge me as an official advocate/representative for their clients and release their records to me as allowed by law, as a physician's office would. For example, I just spoke with Mr. Lazow's treating physician's office and they are going to facilitate having Mr. Lazow sign forms to allow them to release his medical information to me and for me to speak with his physician. It would be very helpful if the HSC and the RSES would cooperate with me in a similar manner.
 
I would like to reiterate one thing: the HSC and the RSES are bound to follow the law in adhering to the ADA, the FHA and Section 504. There are no ifs and buts about that. If they cannot abide by the law in protecting disabled homeless people's civil rights then they have no place providing services to the homeless.
 
I hope this clarifies my positions. Thank you for thoughtfully considering what I have written.
 
Respectfully yours,
John E. Colby, Ph.D.
 
email: colby [at] docktorcat.com
 
telephone: 831.471.9767
cellphone: 831.419.1521
fax: 831.218.4121
 
postal address:
849 Almar Avenue, Suite C–242
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Mayor Don Lane opened up a dialogue with me after I reported the difficulties the disabled homeless people I represent and advocate for have experienced at the Paul Lee Loft shelter operated by the Homeless Services Center (HSC), and the River Street Emergency Shelter (RSES) operated by the Santa Cruz Community Counseling Center (SCCCC). In sum, my clients have submitted through me immediate disability accommodation requests to HSC Executive Director Monica Martinez and RSES Program Manager Tracey Heggum. Ms. Martinez promised a written response to these requests on or about Thursday, June 14, 2012, yet no written response has been forthcoming. Ms. Heggum has completely ignored these immediate disability accommodation requests, offering nothing.

These requests can be viewed on earlier articles (http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/06/11/18715157.php and http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/06/19/18715777.php) which I have posted about the problems and illegalities my clients have encountered with the Paul Lee Loft shelter, the HSC, and the RSES. In short, they are all ignoring these formal requests made under federal disability rights laws. There is no denying this, as will become evident in the coming months.

I hope that Mayor Don Lane will act judiciously and require the HSC and RSES to follow federal disability rights laws by responding in writing to Mr. Lazow's, Mr. Skinner's and Ms. Morgan's fully legal immediate disability accommodation requests. Their civil rights will be enforced.

The dialogue Mayor Don Lane opened up with me in response to my emails to him and the immediate disability requests I have transmitted on the behalf of disabled homeless individuals Steve Lazow, Ron Skinner and Megan Andrea Morgan is copied below.

Important points to note:

1. I did not assume that the Homeless Services Center (HSC) and the River Street Emergency Shelter (RSES) were discriminating against disabled homeless people. These were conclusions I came to after interviewing their disabled clients.

2. Reasonable accommodation requests are not demands. Disabled individuals are entitled by law to request disability accommodations — they are not demanding anything. They are merely accommodation requests which a service provider can accept, deny or negotiate about.

3. It is normal for advocates to work with agencies in writing. If there is a paper trail then there can be no questions about what transpired, and thus no misunderstandings. Moreover, service providers cannot be held accountable for their actions or lack of action if there is no paper trail. Usually disability accommodation requests are made in writing and one receives responses to these requests in writing — this is what HUD recommends. I have advocated with numerous government agencies — they have never coerced me to not do business in writing. Only the City of Santa Cruz, the HSC and the RSES seem to have issues with this. Why is that?


Begin forwarded message:

From: Don Lane
Date: June 21, 2012 10:53:19 AM PDT
To: "'John E. Colby'"
Subject: RE: Response to your explanation about my concerns regarding the HSC (and the RSES)

Dear Mr. Colby,

Thought I’d comment quickly on these items:

“Perhaps this should serve as a clarion call to the City and County of Santa Cruz to adequately fund these shelters so that they can follow the law.”

We certainly have common ground on this one… I have spend [sic] much of my life working toward the end of having adequate funding for these shelters. However, I do think you start from the questionable assumption that the shelters are not following the law and I do not share that assumption.

Finally, how would recognizing me as an advocate/representative for HSC and RSES clients cost anyone any money?

I don’t see the issue as your recognition… it is the actual time spent addressing all of the formal demands you make several times each week. I wonder if you have any conception as to how much time and energy (and money, once it gets legalistic and requires attorney time) it takes to work with all the demands you make once you enter into a process like this. This time and energy and money will either be used dealing with your demands or dealing with actual services at the agency. As you may recall, my plea was not for you to drop your concerns and your advocacy… it is simply to work in a way that might expeditiously get to a positive outcome. I believe this is more likely to happen with less formality on the front end.

Thanks again for your consideration.

Don Lane
Mayor
City of Santa Cruz
 
From: John E. Colby [mailto:colby [at] docktorcat.com] 
Sent: Tuesday, June 19, 2012 9:19 PM
To: Don Lane
Cc: City Council; Bonnie Lipscomb; Carol Berg
Subject: Response to your explanation about my concerns regarding the HSC (and the RSES)
 
June 19, 2012
 
Don Lane
Mayor
City of Santa Cruz
 
via email to: dlane [at] cityofsantacruz.com
cc: citycouncil [at] cityofsantacruz.com
cc: blipscomb [at] cityofsantacruz.com
cc: cberg [at] cityofsantacruz.com
 
re: Response to your explanation about my concerns regarding the HSC (and the RSES)
 
Dear Mayor Lane:
 
First off, I thank you for communicating with me in response to the issues I raised today with the Santa Cruz Homeless Services Center (HSC) and, although you did not mention it, the River Street Emergency Shelter (RSES). These issues can be referenced from the link to Santa Cruz Indymedia below:
 
http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/06/19/18715777.php
 
From my understanding, which may change as I gather information from the City of Santa Cruz and HUD, Santa Cruz administers CDBG block grant funds to the HSC and to the RSES. This HUD funding comes along with responsibilities in administering and doling it out. Thus to my present understanding, I disagree that "the City has nor formal role in your complaint with the two shelters."
 
Your claim that my work as an advocate/representative will somehow cost these service providers money (thereby hurting their other clients) seems specious to me. First, these disability accommodations must be reasonable ones which do not cause an undue financial burden on the party being asked to make the accommodations. That is the law. Second, following the ADA, the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Section 504 (of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) are part and parcel of being a homeless shelter. Should disabled homeless people cede their legally entitled rights just because a provider is short on funding? Perhaps this should serve as a clarion call to the City and County of Santa Cruz to adequately fund these shelters so that they can follow the law. Finally, how would recognizing me as an advocate/representative for HSC and RSES clients cost anyone any money?
 
If the HSC and the RSES cannot accommodate clients with serious medical needs then they should be referring them to medical facilities which can. They are in a better position than I am to assess my clients' medical needs because they refuse to share their files with me. If I had their files, like Steve Lazow's, I might advocate, as I plan to in Mr. Lazow's case, that they be housed in a medical facility like a nursing home. By refusing to cooperate with me by providing legally releasable information, the HSC and the RSES are shooting themselves in the foot. I have my clients' best interests at heart: if they can be better served in a medical facility then I will advocate for that to happen. But I can't do anything until the HSC and the RSES acknowledge me as an official advocate/representative for their clients and release their records to me as allowed by law, as a physician's office would. For example, I just spoke with Mr. Lazow's treating physician's office and they are going to facilitate having Mr. Lazow sign forms to allow them to release his medical information to me and for me to speak with his physician. It would be very helpful if the HSC and the RSES would cooperate with me in a similar manner.
 
I would like to reiterate one thing: the HSC and the RSES are bound to follow the law in adhering to the ADA, the FHA and Section 504. There are no ifs and buts about that. If they cannot abide by the law in protecting disabled homeless people's civil rights then they have no place providing services to the homeless.
 
I hope this clarifies my positions. Thank you for thoughtfully considering what I have written.
 
Respectfully yours,
John E. Colby, Ph.D.
 
email: colby [at] docktorcat.com
 
telephone: 831.471.9767
cellphone: 831.419.1521
fax: 831.218.4121
 
postal address:
849 Almar Avenue, Suite C–242
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Begin forwarded message:

From: Don Lane
Date: June 19, 2012 7:48:12 PM PDT
To: "colby [at] docktorcat.com"
Subject: RE: My most urgent issues with the Santa Cruz Homeless Services Center (HSC) and River Street Emergency Shelter (RSES)

Dear Mr. Colby

I very much appreciate that you would like to handle all of this in writing. That makes some sense when you are moving through a formal process with the service agency involved.

However, since the City has no formal role in your complaint with the two shelters, I'm not sure I understand your unwillingness to speak with me on the phone about this. If we spoke, I could learn what you hope I might do informally to assist the folks you are trying to help. Short of this, I am happy to continue to communicate informally with the staff at the Homeless Services Center about your concerns.(As you probably know, I have spoken with Megan Andrea Morgan and informally conveyed my interest in her concerns to HSC staff.)

I do have a couple of comments about your general effort here... the two agencies you are pressing work in an extraordinarily stressed environment and work with insufficient public and private funding. On top of this, the shelters have limited capacity that is not nearly sufficient to meet the need in the community for shelter and housing for all kinds of people- disabled or not. On top of that, these are not medical facilities designed to serve people with major medical needs. The fact that they are not medical facilities raises the question of what should by expected of them by you or anyone you represent. (I wonder, for instance, if you would go after a hotel that has reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities but does not have medical staff for a guest who not only has a disability but has immediate medical needs?)

It is also worth noting that it is a much larger system that is failing the three people you are working with. It would be unfortunate if you created a situation where fewer people were being served (because the shelters were limited and diminished in service by your formal demands) because you targeted a symptom of the systemic problem rather than the cause.

I guess what I'm saying is... please recognize the larger environment you are working in. The shelters are trying to serve as many people in need as possible in a reasonably fair way while scraping by financially.

I hope we can approach this whole situation by asking how we can make the situation better for everyone. This will help the three people you want to help without causing a setback for others you do not represent.

Thanks for considering [this].

Don Lane
Mayor
City of Santa Cruz