City’s Homeless Encampment Evicted Disabled Woman In Middle of the Night

by on October 24, 2023 · 8 comments

in Homelessness, San Diego

By Geoff Page

This is an account of a disabled homeless woman who was tossed out, at night, from the city’s homeless encampment at the city’s Operations Maintenance Yard at 20th and B. She was left to fend for herself huddled against a fence with a few of her belongings in the dark and the drizzle of a Tuesday night.

This writer met Jane – not her real name – last Friday, October 6, during a visit to the camp. She had contacted The Rag around noon desperate for some immediate help because she was about to be kicked out of the camp that day. Jane is disabled because of issues with a leg making walking difficult.

The Rag put Jane in touch with Coleen Cusack, an attorney well known for her advocacy for homeless individuals with legal problems. Cusack is also a candidate for city council District 3, attempting to unseat wildly unpopular Stephen Whitburn. Cusack requested that this writer come along when she went to the camp. An associate of Cusack’s, attorney Kylee Belanger, also attended.

At the end of that Friday visit, it appeared that the eviction was held off. Cusack very firmly pointed out certain processes needed to take place, that had not taken place, including a proper hearing, before ousting a person from the camp. Jane’s caseworker was there Friday and agreed to attend to those matters.

Today, Jane told me signed a paper, under duress, about two hours after Cusack left on Friday. She did not have a copy of the paper with her. This was improper in too many ways. The camp providers knew Jane had an attorney and should not have required her to sign anything without advice of counsel.

When pressed about the inadvisability of signing anything without her attorney seeing it, Jane said they basically said she had to sign it or leave. Cusack had established that they could not remove her without a hearing, and they agreed to arrange it, yet according to Jane, they threatened her with expulsion soon after Cusack left. No hearing took place.

On Tuesday, October 11, Jane again contacted The Rag and said they were going to toss her out of the camp that night. Calls were made but unfortunately no one was able to react Tuesday.

Jane contacted The Rag again this morning, October 11. Astonishingly, she had been tossed from the camp and was outside the gates. She needed help. Cusack was again apprised of the situation and this writer then drove down to the camp.

On arriving a little before noon, this writer found Jane outside the gate surrounded by, what looked like piles of trash, similar to what is seen on the city streets. These were her things hastily gathered and expelled from the camp. There was a dog crate covered with a gray tarp. Inside were four dogs, three very small and one about 25 pounds.

The picture below shows where Jane was left. This is a stones toss from the intersection of Pershing, Florida Canyon, and 26th Street.

Where she was outside

The most amazing thing was not just that she was outside, unsheltered. The amazing thing was that they left her outside a locked gate at night, with no security or any kind of shelter at all. Just inside the gate is an area with overhanging trees. While this would not be much different from the spot she was in, it certainly would have been safer. Note the razor wire coils on top of the gate. They could have hauled out one of the tents and set her up there for the night. Why they did not have the decency to keep her inside is something the provider, Dreams For Change needs to answer for.

Safer spot

Behind the gate is a road. About 300 feet down the road is the actual camp entrance and another set of big, chain link gates. That was how far away Jane was from any kind of help if she needed any Tuesday night.

Distance from camp

Apparently, Dreams for Change, had four San Diego police officers evict Jane. Four police officers to handle a disabled woman and her crate of small dogs. They bagged up her belongings and escorted her and her dogs outside the gate.

Her transgression appears to have everything to do with her dogs.

This is where it gets a little difficult. The complaint from the camp provider seems to be twofold, that Jane was not walking her dogs as frequently as required by contract and that she left her dogs in the crate unattended for many hours when she left the camp. The provider claimed the dogs walked around in a soiled crate because they could not get out.

It is admirable that the city has made it possible for residents to keep their dogs in this camp. That is a positive thing and several residents were observed walking dogs of all sizes. According to Jane, she was walking her dogs as required and she said other people in the camp helped with the walking also and could confirm what she said.

One person from the camp provider, who did speak to everyone, said they did not agree with what Jane said. She said they had repeatedly admonished Jane about the dogs. When asked if they had documentation of these repeated warnings about the dogs, the spokesperson she said they did.

Jane’s biggest problem was that she is on a number of medications and she did not have them. She said the meds were still in the camp with some of her things. The camp spokesperson disagreed and said they gave her the meds before they tossed her the night before. Jane offered to let the woman search her belongings to prove that she did not have her medicine.

Jane said she was also having trouble getting her mail from her caseworker. It seems the mail goes someplace specific for homeless people in the system who do not have a physical address. According to Jane, she has to rely on her caseworker to bring the mail.

Jane said she has been waiting for her new driver’s license, without it, she cannot rent a room or a car or do anything else ID is needed for. Jane claims she has a benefactor up north in the Inland Valley and when she can rent a car, she will take her dogs and drive there.

Jane’s caseworker arrived about an hour after she was called.  After some discussion, Jane was given two choices. Give up the dogs and then go back into the camp or they would drop her off at a street location with her dogs wherever she preferred. That was it. The problem is the dogs and it is understandably a problem. Allowing folks to keep their animals is wonderful but it does come with difficulties for everyone.

Martha Sullivan, with the San Diego Housing Emergency Alliance, arrived at the request of Cusack. She brought expertise in handling these matters, which was quickly apparent. They discussed Jane’s dogs first.

Jane said two dogs were deemed not adoptable by the Humane Society because they had bitten people. The other two were fine. Sullivan offered a suggestion of Jane giving two up to the Humane Society for short period until her situation could be stabilized somewhere. Jane said did not want to do that. That was the conundrum.

This writer has four dogs and has had many dogs over the years. After looking Jane’s dogs over carefully, all of whom were very friendly, they looked healthy, no skin problems, were not dirty, and were very energetic. Some of the energy was clearly that they were a bit starved for attention. They all appeared to love Jane as well. What to do?

This writer left the site about 1:00 as Jane was in Sullivan’s good hands. Wednesday afternoon, around 4:00, Sullivan updated this writer about what had transpired.

Sullivan and her two able assistants, Chaun Reynolds and Tony Rodrigues, spent the intervening hours with Jane and managed to help Jane out of her current situation by getting her together with people she knew. They transported Jane and her belongings away from her current situation in Sullivan’s large van. Apparently, Sullivan is carrying some of Jane’s belongings around in the large van temporarily. They found the missing meds in the meantime as well.

Sullivan, Reynolds and Rodrigues do these kinds of things regularly. It is difficult to say enough good things about people like this who deal with people like Jane and, assuredly, far worse. These folks deserve praise and support from us all.

The sad ending of all this is that Jane is back out on the streets because she would not give up her dogs. What Jane’s case illustrates is that caring for the homeless can be a very complicated affair, often complicated by a lack of cooperation from people being helped.

In Jane’s case, that means trying to help a woman who cannot house herself but insists on keeping four dogs. As a dog lover, this writer understands the love for dogs. Asking the world to make an accommodation for her and her dogs is asking too much of the system today. If these people could finally get into housing, this might not be an issue, but it is now.


{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Martha Sullivan October 24, 2023 at 2:22 pm

THANK YOU for writing about this tragedy, Geoff. It is the very tip of the iceberg. Multiply it by at least 6500 unhoused residents of the City of San Diego, at least 3,700 of whom exceed the capacity of City Shelter beds or “safe sleeping areas”. This is NOT an assembly line, as Mayor Todd Gloria, Councilman Stephen Whitburn and others would like us to believe. Each human requires focused and continuing problem-solving to address their individual circumstances and needs.


Pat S October 24, 2023 at 2:40 pm

Excellent accounting of the reality of the homeless. Dogs also alert a sleeping homeless person someone is approaching them. A self defense mechanism. There are many categories of homeless people, other than druggies or alkies. With the rents as they are in SD, their social security checks, or minimum wage jobs, or disability checks do not cover the cheapest rent, utilities and food. Each person needs to be triaged/interviewed to find out what they have and will they go into housing or shelters or not. Millions of dollars has been given to various groups with little or no success in getting folks off the street. The mayor and whitburn’s plans are all about politicking to get re-elected. They haven’t done anything about it for the past 3 1/2 yrs. but they’re getting a lot of free TV advertising now. Father Joe’s and McElroy have the best plans going, but their plans don’t include everyone. Maybe the best thing for some of the homeless is to find out where their family is and give them a one way bus ticket to their family, if they will be accepted. That’s how a lot of them got to SD, per SDPD Homeless Outreach Team. We have people running for Mayor and Council Dist. 3 and other Districts that have plans on how to make a lot of things better for the constituents. We just have to vote these special interest, photo op hounds out. A smiling face doesn’t mean they’re going to do the right thing for all the people.


Jane October 24, 2023 at 5:22 pm

I am Jane from the article posted above. It is important to note that the issue with my dogs is not properly spelled out. I am disabled, sometimes using a wheelchair, sometimes a cane. The shelter employees demanded that I walk the dogs completely around the shelter 4 separate times per day. My dogs are let out to go to the bathroom at minimum 10 times per day, but I cannot physically walk them around the entire lot. I said I would pay someone and friends volunteered to help me but they demanded that it be me, personally and nobody else. There were more than 35 dogs in the lot and NOT ONE OTHER PERSON was given this requirement. I went to the pet owners and verified that. So basically they were saying that as a disabled person I was not allowed to have pets. Their demand was that each round I made I was to sign a sheet and ensure security saw me walk them each and every time. I told them immediately I cannot do that and they told me to get out. I do not take illegal drugs, I do not drink alcohol, I did not violate curfew. I have no doubt that for some reason they wanted me gone, or I may have considered temporarily removing my pets while I made arrangements. The owner of Dreams For Change ignored my attempts to resolve the situation by email. Mr. Page and Ms. Sullivan are absolutely correct in stating each homeless person has individual needs and we are not all druggies and alcoholics. And we deserve the same respect you would show any other person. I sincerely want to thank them, Ms. Cusack, and all of my workers for their help. These are the people that are trying to make a difference!


Mateo October 24, 2023 at 5:35 pm

Don’t fix the problem, make it go away, is not a public policy. California has a 60% deficit in the number of mental healthcare professionals the populous currently requires.

These are going to be the same public officials that will be determining conservator-ships, undoubtedly with jaundice eyes, to commit Americans to “behavioral health centers” already understaffed before they’ve been built.

It is time for Californians to call out this for what it is, pure political evil!


Roy McMakin October 24, 2023 at 10:38 pm

Geoff, the detail and clarity of how you recount this very complicated situation has created a valuable document of our times. Martha Sullivan’s comment sharing her understanding that this is just one of many situations, all filled with the specificity, very real needs, and complications of a human’s life, adds to its value of this document.
I can’t help but being struck by the contrast of the humanity of Geoff, Coleen, and Martha (and others) with the dehumanized photo ops and scripted videos of Gloria and Whitburn showing of their shiny new tents.


Geoff Page October 25, 2023 at 11:15 am

Thanks Roy, always glad to see you here on The Rag’s pages.


retired botanist October 25, 2023 at 6:10 pm

All I can say is, Geoff, thanks for peeling back the curtain, and sensitively reporting on this ongoing, national crisis. And Jane, I hear you and feel for your challenges. It breaks my heart, every single day, to feel pretty helpless to improve your circumstances, and the thousands of other in similar constraints.


Geoff Page October 25, 2023 at 7:48 pm

Thanks, retired.


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