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Homeless woman claims she was unjustly suspended from Prado 

A homeless San Luis Obispo resident claims she was temporarily kicked out of the 40 Prado Homeless Services Center for three days and nights over a minor disagreement with a staff member. Now she's protesting the suspension.

Mid-afternoon on Dec. 19, just hours after the alleged incident, Brenda, who requested that we omit her last name to maintain her family's privacy, was seated outside the Downtown Transit Center in SLO wearing a shower cap and holding a neon green poster.

click to enlarge ONE-WOMAN PROTEST Brenda, a resident of SLO experiencing homelessness, claims she was unjustly kicked out of the 40 Prado Homeless Services Center for three days and nights over a minor argument. - PHOTO BY KASEY BUBNASH
  • Photo By Kasey Bubnash
  • ONE-WOMAN PROTEST Brenda, a resident of SLO experiencing homelessness, claims she was unjustly kicked out of the 40 Prado Homeless Services Center for three days and nights over a minor argument.

"Please pray for the homeless of Prado," her sign read. "I just wanted to shower, I got upset, and even though they have film of me on my knees begging for forgiveness for not knowing my place, I will be sleeping here for three nights."

Brenda said she's been homeless for a few years now, and she's been staying at Prado since about September.

She said she has her daily routine down. With several community programs in her weekly schedule, including a trauma class and a Bible group, she likes to shower and finish her chores first thing in the morning so she's free all day.

Just after 5 a.m. on Dec. 19, Brenda said she hopped into the shower and turned the faucet only to find there was no running water. A Prado staffer told her they'd turned the water off that morning for maintenance, Brenda claims.

If Brenda had been notified prior to the water shutoff, she said she would have planned around it. It wasn't a huge deal, but Brenda said she has mental health issues and lost her temper. She and the staffer had a brief argument, which ended with the staff member threatening to place Brenda on a suspension.

"It's not OK to kick someone out because they had an argument with someone," Brenda told New Times.

Still, she claims she apologized and begged the staffer to forgive her. A few hours later, Brenda was served with a written notification of her three-day suspension.

According to the suspension notification, which Brenda provided to New Times, disruptive behavior or "creating a negative environment" is prohibited at Prado, and all concerns or complaints have to be processed through a conflict resolution form. Yelling at staff, the notification reads, "will not be tolerated."

"For minor stuff you will find yourself in a creek bed," Brenda told New Times.

Brenda wasn't sure where she'd be sleeping during her suspension, but said she hopes her one-woman protest will shine a light on an issue at Prado that has impacted other homeless individuals too. Brenda claims to have seen people eighty-sixed over small incidents, and she said most people are too afraid to speak up out of fear of being barred from the shelter for good.

But someone has to say something, Brenda said, and "I want [everyone] to know why people are lying on the street here."

Grace McIntosh, deputy director of CAPSLO, the organization that runs Prado, said she couldn't comment on this specific incident.

In general, McIntosh said Prado serves a number of individuals with severe mental and physical health issues, people with young children, and seniors. Excessive shouting and use of profanity can be stress inducing for many residents of the shelter.

"We play a very delicate dance of honoring where people are at," McIntosh said, "with the need to make sure this is a safe place for all."

Suspensions of multiple days are only issued to individuals who have a history of unruly behavior, according to McIntosh, and those suspensions go through a review process—which typically includes viewing security camera footage—before they're made official.

"We do have rules," McIntosh told New Times. "And we do have expectations that [residents] sign on to when they come." Δ

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