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River Street Shelter refuses to acknowledge me as a representative/advocate for clients
by John E. Colby
Friday Jun 29th, 2012 6:49 AM
River Street Emergency Shelter Program Manager Tracey Heggum steadfastly refuses to acknowledge me as the representative and advocate for five different disabled homeless individuals. Clearly they desperately need representation and advocacy, because they have gotten unsatisfactory results by trying to navigate the programs located on the Homeless Services Center campus by themselves — they have been chronically homeless for years. If they don't gain my representation/advocacy they could die on the streets. Please read my latest email, among many others, that I just sent to River Street Emergency Shelter Program Manager Tracey Heggum.
These five extremely disabled homeless individuals have bounced from one shelter bed to another between bouts of homelessness. The system isn't working for them. One would think that the River Street Emergency Shelter would welcome someone with a Ph.D. coming to the aid of these extremely vulnerable individuals, since they are on the verge of being made homeless again — on the verge of being on the street again.

Stan Willis is dying from colon cancer. Being on the street would be a death sentence for him. Steve Lazow is wheelchair bound and has a serious staph infection. If Steve is put on the street, then not only would he likely be robbed again like he was last January, but the staph infection on his leg would spiral out of control, endangering his life. Ron Skinner who uses a walker is an especially vulnerable individual — he cannot survive on the streets. Megan Andrea Morgan who also uses a walker suffers from severe fatigue and exhaustion. Again, living on the streets would be a death sentence for her, especially because she is a severely disabled woman.

How can Santa Cruz Mayor Don Lane make excuses for the River Street Emergency Shelter not allowing me to represent and advocate for these extremely vulnerable individuals, disabled homeless people who have fallen through the cracks of the different homeless services and health provider programs located on the Homeless Services Center campus?

The River Street Emergency Shelter is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 (of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) and the federal Fair Housing Act. Their federal funding requires that the River Street Emergency Shelter abide by federal nondiscrimination laws. I intend to determine what local government agency is responsible to administer the programs/services of the River Street Emergency Shelter and to hold them accountable for allowing this shelter to flout federal nondiscrimination laws.

My clients' civil rights will be enforced.
The Homeless Person's Health Project (HPHP) also refuses to recognize me as a representative/advocate for their clients. Thus these disabled homeless individuals are not being adequately served by HPHP either. They are falling through the cracks on their own, while these homeless services/healthcare providers refuse to allow me to represent them and advocate on their behalf to gain (permanent) housing and adequate healthcare.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Dan
Friday Jun 29th, 2012 11:00 AM
...advocate to get these folks into skilled nursing, where they obviously belong given their medical situation? Obviously they have no business being in a homeless shelter that, like most, is ill equipped to handle people with severe chronic health problems.
by John E. Colby
Friday Jun 29th, 2012 11:21 AM
I find your comment distasteful and offensive. These homeless individuals are severely disabled. Obviously they can't work or go to (nursing) school.
by John E. Colby
Friday Jun 29th, 2012 11:27 AM
I would like to advocate to get these people into skilled nursing homes for a short period, if that's what you were saying, but no nursing home wants someone with only MediCal or MediCruz insurance.

They are falling between all the cracks. They could be in permanent or supported housing with In Home Supportive Services caregivers. They shouldn't have to be institutionalized.

Not being institutionalized because of your disability is a civil right affirmed by the Supreme Court.
by Dan
Friday Jun 29th, 2012 11:43 AM
...these folks have absolutely no business being in a homeless shelter not equipped to handle people with severe chronic health problems. Instead of fighting with all and sundry, work with them...
by John E. Colby
Friday Jun 29th, 2012 12:40 PM
You missed my point. The federal government pays these shelters to provide services to disabled people. They're getting money for services which they don't provide. Also the federal government funds the County of Santa Cruz for transitional housing and supportive housing for disabled homeless people.

That these severely disabled homeless people are stuck in the hamster wheel of the shelters is an indictment of the homeless service providers who are funded to house exactly these people. It's scandalous they are still homeless.

The shelters are supposed to refer them to programs for extremely disabled people, but they haven't done that. Can you explain why the shelters have not done this? Why are the shelters making statements to gain government funding which seem to be false ones?
by Dan
Friday Jun 29th, 2012 1:44 PM
...that you're picking a fight with the wrong people. I looked at the City's action plan and nowhere did it specifically mention providing shelter to disabled homeless people. What it did say was that the shelters were receiving dollars to provide temporary shelter for homeless folks. The responsibility to provide transition and permanent housing is that of Santa Cruz County. The County is also responsible under state law to provide medical care to the indigent. The City has no involvement in providing these services.

It appears the shelters are fulfilling their obligations to both the City and HUD. They are providing the services they agreed to. The reality is that they will not be able to provide services to everyone who asks for them. They have a finite number of beds and the demand outstrips the supply. So the shelters have to turn people away.

Being familiar with homeless providers here in Fresno I can safely say that severely disabled people have no business being in the typical shelter. Shelters are usually not equipped to deal with folks with disabilities that affect their mobility or require medical management.
by John E. Colby
Friday Jun 29th, 2012 3:35 PM
I suggest a long conversation with Julie Conway, the County Housing Development Manager. Then read up on the contractor/grant applications the different homeless programs submit to the City and County of Santa Cruz. There is a whole patchwork of programs from which the City and County are funding numerous programs which are ultimately connected to the shelters. The shelters work with these other programs to (supposedly) provide reserved beds to disabled homeless people, the most vulnerable of the homeless population.

These funds are funneled through federal grants from HUD and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) — you can look up the grants the City and the County receive using

These grants require that the recipients follow federal, state and local nondiscrimination laws. Disabled homeless shelter applicants must have an equal opportunity to benefit from shelter programs. That's a requirement of the funding they receive and also a requirement of federal disability laws. The shelters are subject to both Title II and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA). Homeless people cannot be turned away from the shelters because they are (severely) disabled. That would violate these laws.

The Supreme Court affirmed the attitude of Congress when it passed the ADA that disabled people should be allowed to integrate themselves into the community: they cannot be isolated and segregated or unnecessarily institutionalized. The bar for institutionalizing disabled people is very high. All of the people I represent/advocate for are ideal candidates for more permanent housing supplemented by In Home Supportive Services (IHSS) caregivers. IHSS is meant to allow disabled people to live in the community, not to institutionalize them. It also saves money. It costs a lot to institutionalize disabled people.

Looking at your comments I recommend a lot of reading before you start criticizing me. That's why I have a Ph.D.
by sleep is not a crime
Saturday Jun 30th, 2012 7:54 PM
Keep up the good work John. Of course the REAL reason we have shelters is so the police can harrass the homeless for sleeping on the public commons. If there were no shelter beds available, the homeless could use the necessity defence in court. I have seen Tracey Heggum testify she had "empty beds" available, so that the defendants would get 6 months in jail for the crime of sleeping.

The other reason is to provide well paying patronage to the friends of the powerful. The city spends $160,000 on the HSC and $80,000 of that goes to Monica Martinez's salary alone.

Sorry to hear you are unemployed John, if you were screwing over the poor and diabled instead of helping them, you could probably get a well paying-do little government job in Santa Cruz (and a 6 figure pension at age 51 to go with it.)
by Brent Adams
Sunday Jul 1st, 2012 9:20 PM
Please don't take troll comments to heart, John.
These negative Nancy's don't represent the community at large.
Dan does make a point though. Isn't there a county run program that can help these folks?
Or a state program? The state could recognize you as their caregiver.. such as with
But that is for folks with developmental disabilities.. There must be some agency for folks with physical disabilities.

While I've not experienced the services at the Homeless Person's Health Project, I do appreciate some of the work
they do in providing a baseline of support for homeless people and I expect that folks with various physical limitations
are outside of what they are efficiently able to offer.

I appreciate that you've taken on these folks and are seeking to advocate for them. I support you in this endeavor, and by that
I only mean that I intend to offer some amount of research and moral support. I am in solidarity with you.

Thank you,
by John E. Colby
Wednesday Jul 4th, 2012 9:33 PM
My representation /advocacy is completely self funded. I am paying my own way so far.

I need:

A. Donations for 2-3 cellphones to remain in communication with those disabled homeless people who I represent and advocate for.
B. Donations for all of the California Public Records Act (CPRA) requests I am making to the City and County of Santa Cruz as well as the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to federal agencies for information about the Homeless Services Center, the River Street Shelter and the Homeless Persons Health Project.
C. Help setting up a nonprofit through which to do my disabled homeless advocacy and raising money to support it.
D. People willing to sleep with some of these homeless disabled people in safe zones to safeguard them.
E. People willing to protest in support of the disabled homeless people I am representing/advocating for.

I would appreciate help with the above five items to safeguard these disabled homeless people from dying on the streets of Santa Cruz.
From Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act: a public accommodation must make reasonable modifications in policies, practices and procedures to accommodate people with disabilities.

The River Street Shelter is subject to Title III and possibly Title II of the ADA, as well as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 for receiving federal funds, and the amended federal Fair Housing Act of 1988.

Essentially for enforcement purposes, my disabled clients must show that their accommodation requests for me to represent, advocate and translate for them are reasonable.

They are clearly reasonable because hospitals, social services and housing providers routinely allow others, like family members and social workers, to represent and advocate for people with disabilities. If anything, people with disabilities require effective representation and advocacy more often than other classes of the public.

That established, the and the River Street Shelter must show that these accommodations would impose an undue financial burden on them or fundamentally alter the nature of their programs, services and activities.

These accommodations bear no financial burden for them. They would be hard put to argue that they fundamentally alter their programs, services or activities.

The and the River Street Shelter will be on very shaky ground when my clients come to assert their civil rights.
by curious
Friday Jul 6th, 2012 10:28 AM
Do you have to go to court to get appointed as a legal representative for these folks? How can you make the shelter recognize you if they don't want to? Does it cost money to do this process? Why won't they recognize you as a valid representative? I would think a doctor would be a welcome advocate from all perspectives as a representative of disabled people.

Good Luck
Inspect the PDF document liked to for the Social Security Administration (SSA):

To quote this document:

"You can choose to have a representative help you when you do business with Social Security. We will work with your representative, just as we would with you. It is important that you select a qualified person because, once appointed, your representative may act for you in most Social Security matters."

If the SSA allows (disabled) people to appoint their own representatives, why won't Betsy Clark, Director of Community Support Services for and Tracey Heggum, program manager for the River Street Shelter?

What's good enough for the government should be good enough for the River Street Shelter!
by Ed Natol
(ednatol [at] Sunday Jul 8th, 2012 8:48 AM
A: Because the SSA and River St. are not the same.

Q: To avoid any more wheel spinning - Have you tried to contact the Santa Cruz Public Guardians? They might be able to help or at least hook you up with some info on what needs to be done.
Your reasoning is specious. If the Social Security Administration will allow me to representative/advocate for these disabled homeless people, why should the River Street Shelter have a higher bar to jump over than the federal government?

In fact, why does the — by way of Betsy Clark — deny me what the federal government allows me? This shows how unreasonable Ms. Clark, the and the River Street Shelter are.

My only conclusion is that they don't want these disabled homeless people to have an effective representative/advocate so that they can continue to mistreat them and deny them services.
by Reality Check
Sunday Jul 15th, 2012 8:05 AM

Have you been authorized by SSA to represent any of these people? If not, your claim that the feds will recognize you is false. They may recognize someone, but not you. You don't know until you have filed such a request.
Seems bizarre that you would ask HSC what services have been received by these folks. You supposedly represent them - why don't you just ask them?
I don't need SSA's permission to advocate for River Street Shelter's clients. That's ridiculous. I was pointing out that SSA will allow me to represent SSA clients, so River Street Shelter shouldn't deny me the same opportunity for River Street Shelter clients.

That I need to ask what services has been provided to my people is exactly why they need a representative and advocate. They don't even know their history of service. They don't know what services have been denied them or what's available to them. They need a person to serve as an interpreter for their needs and what the homeless services provide.

Ironically, the homeless service providers, from their funding documents, can't even clearly explain what their programs do. How is a disabled homeless person supposed to figure this out? They need a Ph.D. to deconstruct the messy patchwork of homeless services in this county.
by John E. Colby
Sunday Jul 15th, 2012 8:56 AM
All they need to do to have me represent them is to appoint me by filling out SSA form 1696. They are allowed to choose their own representative and they have chosen me. That's their right. I don't have to pass a test or prove anything to be appointed to represent them. You are misinformed.

Look at the form referenced by the link below.
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