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Mike Foley at the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors (Sept. 17, 2013)

Paul Wellman

Mike Foley at the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors (Sept. 17, 2013)


Homeless Shelter Directors Laid Off

Move Saves Casa Esperanza Nearly $200,000 a Year in Salaries and Benefits


Tuesday, March 11, 2014
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Last Thursday proved especially hellacious for Casa Esperanza, Santa Barbara’s long-embattled homeless shelter on Cacique Street. At 5:30 in the evening, a herd of Santa Barbara police officers and detectives arrested a Casa guest wanted by Honolulu police for second-degree murder. Robert Ryan Roediger-Geauque, 32, was arrested quietly and without incident as he watched TV in the shelter’s lounge. Far more emotionally difficult — at least for Casa’s management — was the high-drama announcement made earlier in the day to terminate longtime executive director Mike Foley and his second-in-command Isabelle Loza in response to chronic financial woes. Foley and Loza were notified of their layoffs Thursday, and by Friday they had emptied their offices.

Passionate, articulate, and at times outspoken, Foley had worked for Casa nine years where he’s been its most public face with fundraisers, government officials, and ever-vocal neighborhood critics. Loza, in charge of day-to-day operations, had worked for Casa eight years. Together, their terminations will save the cash-strapped shelter nearly $200,000 a year in salaries and benefits, said Episcopalian minister — and Casa board chair — Mark Asman. Although Casa Esperanza had successfully generated $700,000 in the past six months as part of a desperate fundraising drive, Asman said the layoffs were decided upon when the board found out six weeks ago that Workers Comp costs were $30,000 higher than anticipated and that about $90,000 in expected grants would not materialize.

Asman described the decision to lay off Foley and Loza as “extremely difficult,” terming their contributions as “stellar.” Making it possible, Asman said, was the willingness of new boardmember Bob Bogle, who runs an Atlanta-based commercial real estate enterprise from his South Coast home, to step into the void. Bogle, who has volunteered at Casa the past two years, is now volunteering to work full-time as the shelter’s executive until its finances are stabilized. Asman said that the cuts will enable Casa — which provides a maximum of 200 beds a night in winter months — to make it through this fiscal year and into the next.

Foley and the Casa board have spent the past two years trying to put out fires. Neighborhood critics with the Milpas Community Association complained the shelter had become an attractive nuisance and violated the terms of its conditional use permit with City Hall. Although city planners thought otherwise, the shelter was brought up short for not dealing more aggressively with street people hanging around — though not staying there — to take advantage of the free lunch outreach program. In response, the shelter, its critics, and ancillary stakeholders engaged in a lengthy mediation program which, though private, was said to be quite intense.

Behind the scenes, Foley and the Casa board found themselves scrambling to deal with $2 million in loans they had borrowed to enable the shelter to survive the recession. Partially in response to mounting financial pressures, boardmembers began to question the nature of Casa’s core mission. From its start in 1999, the Casa had been set up to provide shelter and service to anyone in need, no matter how unwilling they might be to seek help. But for clients trying to get clean and sober, the presence of openly intoxicated individuals proved destabilizing. Likewise the inability to provide a quiet space for the mentally ill segregated from the population at large posed another problem.

Last March, the board announced it would adopt a sober-only policy — a dramatic change — and that the free lunch program would be eliminated. Many homeless activists worried the new policy would put countless people on the streets without access to shelter, but those fears have not been borne out, at least not in the adjacent lower Milpas neighborhood. In the meantime, Casa managed to secure housing offering 14 beds — away from the din — to those on the streets struggling with mental health problems. The shift, according to recent statistics, seems to have worked. Last week, Casa was nearly full with a census of 192 guests. About 20 percent of those applying for shelter are turned away for open intoxication, less than the 30-40 percent initially projected.

Even so, the shelter has reported a one percent increase in the number of bed-nights spent there, indicating that those who get in stay and stay longer. Shelter staff described a 70 percent reduction in “incidents” and infractions they report. And the Santa Barbara police records suggest the number of calls for service from December to March 1 dropped from 110 last year to 82. As to why that might be, police spokesperson Sgt. Riley Harwood said, “I can’t put my finger on anything other than speculation,” but characterized it as a “significant change.”

Foley said he would do anything he could to help the board and the new shelter director succeed. In the meantime, he finds himself in the unaccustomed position of having time on his hands. “Hey, I’m watching my 7-year-old son play second base,” he said. “So how bad can it be?”

Comments

Independent Discussion Guidelines

So the Patients are running the Insane Asylum?

dou4now (anonymous profile)
March 12, 2014 at 6:59 a.m. (Suggest removal)

So, why the financial miscalculation, the $30,000 workers' comp miscalculation; and why the dependence on a grant that by its nature, usually, at least, is uncertain? Seems to me that paying such high salaries/is a good part of the problem, as was the arrogance of some of the staff (and board members, too.)

Good luck to Mr. Bogle! With 192 clients, the shelter is clearly needed.

at_large (anonymous profile)
March 12, 2014 at 8:15 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I don't know the specifics, at_large, but worker's comp insurance costs are based on a three year "modification points" average that relate directly to the cost of claims that occurred in that three year window. In addition the longer a claim goes unresolved or is mitigated the higher the cost. No one other than the doctors, the employee, and sometimes lawyers involved in each claim has any control over the outcome of claims that often happened years ago, but still impact the current year's premium.

There isn't really an organization out there that "calculates" W/C it is always kind of an estimation and one that the organization really has little control over.

Num1UofAn (anonymous profile)
March 12, 2014 at 9:57 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I blame it on ObummerCare... NAH! Just kidding. It IS a bummer to see these folks being let go for reasons beyond their control.
But seriously, who IS in control? I've heard the spectre of "homeless incorporated" thrown around on issues such as this and you have to ask yourselves the following: Where is the money going?
Casa Esperanza, while NOT perfect, was trying to do what it could. Sometimes it could be seen as a good service, sometimes a pit of enablers perpetuating the cycle.
In any case, Foley and Loza were trying their very best to make Casa live up to its mission which is provide a safe haven to those trying to get back on their feet.
The adoption of the "sober only facility" policy was clearly a step in the proper direction.
What I find fascinating is this:
"Many homeless activists worried the new policy would put countless people on the streets without access to shelter, but those fears have not been borne out, at least not in the adjacent lower Milpas neighborhood. In the meantime, Casa managed to secure housing offering 14 beds — away from the din — to those on the streets struggling with mental health problems. The shift, according to recent statistics, seems to have worked. Last week, Casa was nearly full with a census of 192 guests. About 20 percent of those applying for shelter are turned away for open intoxication, less than the 30-40 percent initially projected."
Could it be those "many homeless activists" had something to do with the decision to ax Loza and Foley? Now the spectre of "homeless incorporated" is starting to seem real.

blahblahmoreblah (anonymous profile)
March 12, 2014 at 11:45 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Come on! What kind of facility that attracts transients, drug addicts and murders and houses them with the innocent homeless indiviuals who make every effort to face their challenges of drug and alcohol addiction?

Santa Barbara had a wonderful network of angels like Isabel Blagborne from Project Recovery and Penny Jenkins from the Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse who haved assisted thousands of homeless with every kind of life challenge in the book. Isabel and Penny dedicated themselves to helping the poor and needy with their big hearts not big salaries.

VioletFlame (anonymous profile)
March 12, 2014 at 2:14 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Sorry I worked for both of those"executive" and "ASSistant" they were way over paid for what they even did. Now maybe Mr. Foley can have a taste of how the other side live (and eat) imagine a homeless shelter employee making over 100,000$ a year! That's sick! Bye bye Mr. Foley and Imelda pay back is a real bitch uh huh!

garcia1 (anonymous profile)
March 12, 2014 at 2:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

The county could follow in the footsteps of Casa Esperanza by reducing upper level management. There are way too many managers and far too few line staff.

buckwheat (anonymous profile)
March 13, 2014 at 8:37 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Isabelle Loza Thought it was Imelda... Either why they were both frauds...

trenches (anonymous profile)
March 13, 2014 at 8:37 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Garcia and trenches, you guys seem to know something on the inside, go ahead, spill the beans!

blahblahmoreblah (anonymous profile)
March 13, 2014 at 11:10 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Casa Esperanza's financials can be found at Guidestar and Charity Watch. Theirs are years out of date, but show a budget overrun of nearly $1 million dollars for the last year they filed, in 2011. Foley's salary is listed as $131,000, far above that earned by other homeless shelter directors in Santa Barbara. They also pay a board member $214,000 for ACCTING, DEVELOP, and ADMIN. For years, the homeless said that place is all about $$$$$. Guess they were right. http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments...

dogsnsand (anonymous profile)
March 13, 2014 at 3:32 p.m. (Suggest removal)

"Move Saves Casa Esperanza Nearly $200,000 a Year in Salaries and Benefits..." What percentage of the total yearly operating budget was this sum? That's what happens when you give employees fancy titles such as Homeless Shelter Director! Tsk! Tsk!

salsipuedes (anonymous profile)
March 13, 2014 at 3:56 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Poverty Pimps..The first director Richard was just as bad. I remember one guy who ran the place for awhile and quit I guess he figured out how crooked it was. This place should be closed or taken over by another organization.

Byrd (anonymous profile)
March 14, 2014 at 7:45 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Organizations established along humanitarian lines for those between a rock and a hard place should not be confused as cottage industries, providing career opportunities for staff. On the contrary, where possible -- and admittedly it might be difficult to achieve -- volunteerism should be the order of the day!

salsipuedes (anonymous profile)
March 14, 2014 at 9:56 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Since someone brought up Guidestar, one would be surprised to see what the executives at Cottage Health Systems make (be sure to look at both the Hospital System, as well as the Foundation, as the salaries are split).

One might also want to take a look at other foundations in SB who serve the low income housing population and the homeless.

Much of this information will surprise most people, and make a lot of people angry when one sees how much some local non profits pay their executives. If anyone felt that Mr. Foley and Ms. Loza were overpaid, wait until you see these numbers!

Gandalf47 (anonymous profile)
March 16, 2014 at 3:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Thanks for the explanation, Num1UofAn.

at_large (anonymous profile)
March 16, 2014 at 10:22 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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