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Santa Cruz homeless shelter puts wheelchair bound man on the street for showering
Within the last week I have become the representative and advocate for three different disabled homeless individuals — they all faced being forced onto the street or have been forced onto the street. Two, Ron Skinner and Megan Andrea Morgan, use walkers. They were told they could no longer access the River Street Emergency Shelter. This was later confirmed for one of them by a social worker. I called around the Homeless Service Center campus all day last Thursday, scrambling to find them beds. For them, being unhoused means eventually being a crime victim.
Yesterday, one of them called me frantically because Steve Lazow — who is confined to a wheelchair — was evicted from the Paul Lee Loft shelter for another homeless resident assisting him take a shower. This volunteer good samaritan was also evicted from the shelter. This is a clear violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 (of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) and the federal Fair Housing Act. They were not given written explanations nor any appeal rights, denying them due process when being deprived of a federal benefit — the shelter receives federal money through a HUD block grant to the City of Santa Cruz. Now I am the representative and advocate for Mr. Lazow, advocating to gain him back the shelter wrongfully stolen from him.
What kind of community puts people using walkers and wheelchairs on the street? This is undeniably cruel, abusive and uncompassionate. Will Mayor Don Lane show some compassion by remedying this abuse of justice and civil rights violations?
June 11, 2012
Mayor Don Lane
809 Center Street, Room 10
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
via email to: dlane [at] cityofsantacruz.com
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re: Petition for redress of grievances and complaint against Santa Cruz HUD block grant provider
Dear Mayor Lane:
I am writing to you as the authorized representative and advocate for Steve Lazow, a disabled homeless citizen of Santa Cruz. Please view my officiated certification of representation and advocacy attached as a PDF and viewable using the link below:
Mr. Lazow is confined to a wheelchair. It is cruel, abusive and uncompassionate that the City of Santa Cruz would force him to sleep outdoors, vulnerable to attack and the elements. Mr. Lazow was evicted last Sunday from the Paul Lee Loft shelter for exercising his disability rights. His friend Mia LNU was evicted from the Paul Lee Loft for assisting Mr. Lazow in exercising his disability rights. It is inexcusable that Paul Lee Loft shelter staff would violate 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 Mia LNU by making them homeless for exercising Mr. Lazow's disability rights. Moreover, staff at the Paul Lee Loft shelter violated the requirements of their HUD grant money, placing their HUD funds at risk.
Additionally, it is reported that the staff–person who evicted Mr. Lazow and Mia LNU from the Paul Lee Loft shelter is a misogynist who has a grudge against Mia LNU. This could be determined to be gender based harassment violating the federal Fair Housing Act.
Please view the petition by homeless individuals staying at the Homeless Services Center (HSC) campus to reinstate Mr. Lazow and Mia LNU at the Paul Lee Loft shelter, and to reprimand staff–person Joe LNU for writing up Mr. Lazow and Mia LNU then evicting them from the Paul Lee Loft shelter, forcing Mr. Lazow to sleep outdoors in his wheelchair, at great risk, while he suffers pain from a medical condition related to his physical disability. It is attached as a PDF and may be viewed using the link below:
Please view the incident reports by Megan Andrea Morgan, whom I also advocate for and represent, and Patricia Bounds. They both ask that Mr. Lazow and Mia LNU be reinstated at the Paul Lee Loft shelter and that staff–person Joe LNU be reprimanded. These reports are attached as PDFs and may be viewed using the links below:
Please view photographs of Mr. Lazow resting, trying to fall asleep against the back wall of the rear of the HSC Campus parking lot. A blanket is his only protection from the elements. He has no protection from criminals who might do him harm due to his vulnerability.
I would like to describe the factual circumstances as I understand them from speaking to several people and my own observations:
Mr. Lazow is confined to a wheelchair. Due to a serious physical disability, Mr. Lazow does not have any function in his legs — his legs are mostly paralyzed.
The Paul Lee Loft shelter does not provide assistive services for physically disabled homeless individuals who are unable to shower because of their disabilities, e.g. individuals in wheelchairs like Mr. Lazow.
Paul Lee Loft shelter staff refused to assist Mr. Lazow in showering, thus he was unable to shower. Mia LNU informed Paul Lee Loft shelter staff that she would assist Mr. Lazow in showering, since he was not receiving assistance and had not recently showered.
After helping Mr. Lazow shower, two Paul Lee Loft shelter staff–people commended Mia LNU for her assistance in helping Mr. Lazow take showers.
Early Sunday morning Paul Lee Loft shelter employee Joe LNU wrote up Mr. Lazow and Mia LNU for a female showering with a male in the male showers. Joe informed them verbally, not in writing, that they were being exited from the Paul Lee Loft shelter after doors closed that morning and could not return. Joe LNU did not provide them written complaints which they could dispute using an appeals process. Joe LNU denied Mr. Lazow and Mia LNU their federally guaranteed due process rights. Mr. Lazow believes that Joe LNU retaliated against him because one of Mr. Lazow's friends publicly embarrassed Joe LNU by calling Joe out to fight off the property — Joe LNU backed down in front of others. Mr. Lazow believes that Joe LNU bears a personal grudge against him.
Mia LNU and others related to me that Joe LNU is a misogynist who bears a grudge towards Mia. They believe Joe LNU was retaliating against Mia because of his grudge against her which seems to be based in misogyny.
Mia LNU was able to stay Sunday night in the motel room of a friend. Mr. Lazow was unable to find an available motel room. Consequently Mr. Lazow was not housed Sunday night, sleeping in his wheelchair covered by a blanket, in the parking lot of the Homeless Resource Center (HSC) Campus.
Mr. Lazow informed me that he was the victim of a robbery last January. He informed the SCPD. Others told Mr. Lazow that the perpetuator had been caught by the SCPD yet no charges were brought against this individual by the District Attorney's Office. The SCPD did not return Mr. Lazow's stolen belongings to him.
Mr. Lazow was seen at a medical clinic Sunday afternoon. His swollen left leg was bandaged. Mr. Lazow was not told the nature of his medical condition. Mr. Lazow was prescribed medicine for the swelling. Mr. Lazow has been in a great deal of pain since then. When I entered the HSC Campus Sunday night around 7:30 PM, I saw paramedics leaving the campus. Mr. Lazow informed me that he had called 911 for the paramedics. The paramedics refused to examine and treat Mr. Lazow. They did not even examine his swollen, bandaged left leg. The paramedics claimed Mr. Lazow had called them just to gain housing for the night. I photographed Mr. Lazow where he was resting, covered by a blanket, trying to sleep while suffering in pain. I left to obtain food and water for him. I returned about 30 minutes later with food and water. I told Mr. Lazow to call me if the pain became unbearable, that I would call 911 for him and have the paramedics return, because I am his representative and advocate. I then left Mr. Lazow. I have not spoken with him since then. I don't know if he survived the night.
Lastly, HSC Executive Director Monica Martinez refuses to recognize me as an advocate and representative, claiming that HSC clients require court ordered requests to retain an advocate and representative. This is outrageous! 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 the ADA, but also under laws which allow people to retain others, like family members, as representatives and advocates for them. If Ms. Martinez does not acknowledge me as a representative and advocate for HSC clients then I plan to take legal and governmental action against the HSC and the City of Santa Cruz which funds and administers it.
I ask that:
• Mr. Lazow and Mia LNU be immediately reinstated at the Paul Lee Loft shelter.
• Paul Lee Loft shelter staff–person Joe LNU be reprimanded.
• Monica Martinez, Executive Director of the HSC, personally apologize to Mr. Lazow and Mia LNU, assuring them that they will be able to exercise Mr. Lazow's federally protected disability rights without retaliation by HSC staff.
• Monica Martinez, Executive Director of the HSC, personally ensure that the petitioners, especially Ms. Morgan whom I represent and who gathered signatures for the petition, be protected from retaliation and coercion as they acted to assist Mr. Lazow and Mia LNU in exercising his federally protected disability rights.
• Monica Martinez, Executive Director of the HSC, personally direct HSC staff in crafting ADA, Section 504 and Fair Housing compliance policies and procedures — complying with HUD guidelines — to be given to all applicants and HSC staff.
• All HSC staff be educated about beneficiaries' rights and staff's responsibilities under the ADA, Section 504, the Fair Housing Act and other applicable nondiscrimination laws.
A signed copy of this email message will be mailed to you via certified post. I appreciate your immediate attention to my petition for redress of grievances and your addressing my complaint against the Paul Lee Loft shelter (part of the HSC) as a Santa Cruz HUD block grant provider.
John E. Colby, Ph.D.
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