CAPSLO to stop helping homeless who abuse drugs, alcohol

After June 1, people receiving services from CAPSLO could face drug and alcohol testing

acornejo@thetribunenews.comMay 9, 2014 

The Prado Day Center serves homeless people at 43 Prado Road in San Luis Obispo.


The Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County — the main provider of homeless services in the county — will transition to a sobriety-based program on June 1.

The change will have a direct impact on clients who use both the Prado Day Center and the Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter.

Grace McIntosh, deputy director at CAPSLO, announced the change Friday at a public forum hosted by the county League of Women Voters. The event, held to discuss the future Homeless Services Center to be operated by CAPSLO, was attended by more than 80 people.

“Those who choose to maintain a lifestyle of drugs and alcohol — we will no longer be able to serve them,” McIntosh said.

McIntosh said that about 12 percent of clients currently using services at either the day center or the overnight shelter will potentially no longer receive services once the new policy is implemented.

On average, 120 people use services at the Prado Day Center daily and up to 85 people go to the shelter to eat dinner or stay overnight, she said.

CAPSLO is crafting a policy that will allow them to require drug and breathalyzer testing at its sites if a client is suspected of being under the influence.

“Individuals who are consistently under the influence of drugs and alcohol who are tested and fail the test will be asked to leave,” said McIntosh. “We simply cannot be everything to everyone.”

The impetus for the change was to bring the homeless services program back to its mission of transitioning people out of homelessness by providing economic stability and self-sufficiency, she said.

On Monday large signs will be hung at both Prado Day Center and the Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter to let people know of the looming changes.

It is unclear where those people who will no longer receive services will go.

“The option we would like them to make is to become drug- and alcohol-free,” said McIntosh, adding that they will be referred to places for food and clothing and drug and alcohol treatment.

“Some of these people may need to move on,” McIntosh said, noting that as many as half of the people seeking services are from outside the county.

Another option would be to provide a detox facility similar to one provided at the Good Samaritan Shelter in Santa Maria. Clients who test positive for drugs there are offered the option of entering an onsite detox program.

When asked at the forum Friday whether that was something CAPSLO would consider, McIntosh said, “Of course my answer would be yes. I would love that. But it is not that easy.”

McIntosh said the idea has been discussed for years, but the cost has always been prohibitive.

On Friday, Sylvia Barnard, executive director of the Good Samaritan Shelter, offered to partner with CAPSLO to bring a detox program to the new shelter.

The announced change from a behavioral-based model to a sobriety-based model comes one day after CAPSLO entered escrow to purchase 3.2 acres on Prado Road for the Homeless Services Center.

Other major changes to the homeless service program were announced in mid-March. Three managers were demoted, and the program was restructured because of an ongoing deficit in funding for the two San Luis Obispo shelters.

Among the staff affected was Dee Torres, who was demoted from director of homeless services to manager of the two sites.

On Friday, McIntosh confirmed that Torres has been on paid administrative leave since then. The reason for her leave could not be determined.

Shawn Ison, who previously oversaw the Prado Day Center, is filling Torres’ position on an interim basis, said McIntosh.

At the forum Friday, attorney John Spatafore, who is leading the endeavor to build the new center, acknowledged that the road to purchasing the property has been a long and arduous one.

The Homeless Foundation for San Luis Obispo County, headed by Spatafore, will soon launch a public campaign to raise the $4.5 million needed to build the center.

Spatafore said Friday that about 30 percent of that money has already been raised from city and county contributions and other donor pledges.

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.

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