I think we all agree we need some level of help for homeless people, but we need to be asking questions about the expense and lack of results

28 Jan


After I read about the Torres Shelter threatening to close it’s doors, I went about researching the kind of salaries they pay down there. I couldn’t find director Brad Montgomery’s salary info anywhere, but I did find an ad for a counselor to address clients at both the Torres Shelter and the Jesus Center – salary about $42,000/year.  This position was offered through Northern California Catholic Social Services, which I was surprised to find gets most of it’s funding through the county Behavioral Health Department. Look at the wages they are offering and the duties they heap on.

For example – $13.40 an hour for these  “Minimum Employment Qualifications” – Experience working within the foster system, court system and/or with volunteer preferred. Must have reliable transportation, valid driver’s license and insurance. Must be able to multi-task and have solid computer skills; especially Word and Excel. Needs to be able to communicate verbally and in writing, documenting work on a computer is a required. The successful candidate will be able to work independently, use good judgment and be part of a team.

The list of duties would insinuate a lot better salary. This particular position does not offer paid benefits but ” is eligible to participate in our benefits package including: medical, dental, vision, EAP and life.”  On $13.40 an hour, you’re supposed to provide your own insured vehicle, gas to drive it, and then pay for your own health benefits? And this is a position that includes hands-on duties with clients. Wow.


Meanwhile Butte County Behavioral Health Director Adrian Kittrel, who does not work with  clients, makes over $200,000 in salary and pays less than 10 percent of his own benefits and pension.

This is the typical lop-sided situation with most public agencies. This is why they have trouble filling these positions.

On another job website I found positions listed for Chico Area Recreation District – a “coordinator” who works with social media from their office gets a salary of  about $42,000, with benefits paid by the taxpayers (CARD management pay nothing for their benefits). Meanwhile other CARD positions – those who actually run the activities for the public and supervise our children – pay less than $15 an hour. These are part-time positions – 25 to 27 hours – that do not come with any health or pension benefits. You’re working too many hours to get another job, but you can’t make enough money to support yourself.  Most of CARD’s jobs are poverty level  jobs, while they pay their general manager over $120,000/year, and she pays nothing toward full health care and pension.

Researching this topic I came across a very interesting article about doctor burnout. The author just happens to be a psychiatrist.


She is pretty frank about her disappointment in the medical sector. Her biggest problem seems to be over work and a “factory” atmosphere at her job. This prevents her from doing her best for her patients, and that adds to the frustration and depression. 

It is interesting to hear from the other side of the coin, this goes a long way to explain the patient’s miserable experience.

And you may feel same – I’m frustrated that we pay for this. Butte County Admin Officer Paul Hahn says over half the county budget goes to behavioral health and other services for the indigent. The money does not seem to solve the problem, it only results in more behaviorally disturbed and indigent people being brought into our county. In Chico it’s becoming a total disaster.

This morning my husband and I cleaned our garage and took our horde of recyclables over to The Work Training Center. I asked my husband to drive me over to take a look at the Torres Shelter, I have not had a good look at it for years.  The first thing I notice are what looks like cars being lived in, parked along the street outside the center, along the Costco parking lot. It looked like a gypsy camp. According to their website, “guests” are only allowed to check in from 4:30pm to 6pm. If they want to check in at another time, they must call between the hours of 10am and 3pm to make an appointment with shelter staff.  The shelter is “open for guests from 4:30 pm – 6:40 am daily.”  

I’ve heard complaints that the clients are “kicked out” at about 7am. I don’t know if there is a meal in the morning, but I think the Jesus Center offers a breakfast. There used to be a shuttle service that picked up those who do not have cars, took them to the Jesus Center, or various public agencies around town, because local businesses were complaining that they stayed in the area, “milling around” the commercial sector. That shuttle was largely funded by city of Chico, who discontinued their funding last year. So now you find this little encampment surrounding the shelter, out in the public  right of way, cars full of flotsam everywhere but the driver’s seat, windows covered with old tarps, a van with foam core over the front windows. A little group of dirty and disheveled men working under the hood of a car that looked like it should be headed for the scrap yard. It looks like any other homeless camp.

Last year when we were at Chico Locker one afternoon, my husband and I noticed the same scene in the parking lot surrounding the Jesus Center. A dilapidated motor home sat behind the JC building, some crappy cars, even a tent, all  obviously occupied. We wondered how that could be going on, the Jesus Center was supposed to have all these rules. Not long after that conversation, we heard Bill Such was being let go. We realized, he’d been allowing the laissez faire camping. We found out, a new board had taken over, a bunch of realtors, bankers, business people. They were ready to hold a higher bar for the center.

This is what needs to happen at the Torres before I am willing to support them in any way. I don’t think they should get city funding, and I think donors should ask more questions about why this shelter is so expensive to run when it is of such marginal service. 




10 Responses to “I think we all agree we need some level of help for homeless people, but we need to be asking questions about the expense and lack of results”

  1. Tony St Amant January 28, 2016 at 4:26 pm #

    The Butte County Director of Public Health is not Adrian Kitrel and the salary is not $200,000.

    • Juanita Sumner January 28, 2016 at 4:31 pm #

      Mr. St. Amant, please reread – I said, “Behavioral Health”.

  2. Rob January 29, 2016 at 4:52 pm #

    Checking with publicpay.ca.gov, I see the position of “Medical Director, Behavioral Health” is the highest paid position in Butte County. In 2014, the position paid $289,790, more than the County Administrative Officer. I notice, some of that was overtime pay (?), etc, the base salary was about $237,000. And then, a $48,000 benefits package, $33,000 of which goes to “defined benefits plan.”

    Of course the controller’s office cites a disclaimer – “The State Controller’s Office is not responsible for the accuracy of this information. The public employee salary data collected and published by the Controller’s Office is based on unaudited information as received from the local and state government offices.”

    so you can blame Butte County if you think it’s inaccurate.

    • Juanita Sumner January 29, 2016 at 4:56 pm #

      Thanks Rob.

      Mr. St. Amant was right about the Director of Public Health position – apparently that position only pays about $153,000/year.

      • bob January 29, 2016 at 5:42 pm #

        Geez, throwing around 6 figure salaries like chump change.

        All I can say is mommas don’t let your babies grow up to be anything but government bureaucrats!

  3. bob January 29, 2016 at 5:50 pm #

    Holy moly! Just check out that site Rob mentioned. The CHP in 2014 alone cost the taxpayers of this state over 1.5 BILLION dollars! How can that possibly be right?


    No wonder this state is in such sad fiscal shape.

    • Juanita Sumner January 30, 2016 at 6:14 am #

      I agree. And the deck is stacked against us with people like Kamala Harris in charge of our election system. She just won’t pass pension reform, cause she wants a big pension for herself.

      We have a racket in California, and we need the feds to come in here and break it up.

      • bob January 30, 2016 at 9:21 am #

        And Kramala will be your next US senator. And she will hold the job for as long as she wants. For life if she wants, but she is more power hungry than Hillary so being in the Imperial Senate will not be enough.

  4. Brad Montgomery March 8, 2016 at 5:57 pm #

    Hello again, This is Brad from the Torres Shelter. Again 🙂 I’m glad we agree that appropriate help for people who are experiencing homelessness is needed and appreciated. That’s what we’ve been doing. When I started almost 7 years ago, I was told that Chico had about 900 people who were homeless. We’ve helped more than 1700 since I’ve been there out of homelessness. Documented and provable success stories. We now post plenty of these success stories on our FB page. If we do the math, our work should be done, but we still have about 900 people in our community that are experiencing homelessness and frankly speaking I think the 900 we have now are more dangerous then the 900 we had 7 years ago because of AB109 and Prop 47. For the most part, it’s a different 900 people than 7 years ago. There’s a dozen or so exceptions that we all know. Fairly easy to see that the number of people in our community going through homelessness continues to grow. Without our work, the number would be hundreds, if not thousands higher living on our streets daily right now. We at the Torres Shelter are a primary reason why the number has remained manageable. And that’s a crappy way of putting it, but it’s true. People are not coming to California for our services. I can prove that. We didn’t raise any of the people that we serve and we are not responsible for any of the decisions that they have made themselves or that people in their lives made that in many cases victimized them before they met us and contributed to their homelessness. We assess people once we meet them and try to provide them with a path to self-sufficiency. Sometimes the path is relatively easy, but most of the time it is not. We are not responsible for the growth in homelessness in anyway shape or form. We are a very successful agency at helping people out of homelessness. And the growth in homelessness whether it’s due to a poor economy, increased drug activity in our community or people traveling to California because they want a better life are beyond our control. It’s the Serenity Prayer. Of the things we can control, people who come into our Shelter, we do a fantastic job of keeping them safe and helping them move forward. Of the things we can’t control, the list is gigantic and involves everything from domestic funding policy decisions to how much other agencies pay their staff to provide services at the Shelter to who has the legal right to park on our street even when they are not connected to us in anyway whatsoever and the wisdom to know the difference is something that I think I get better at all the time and is a continual learning process. The fundamental thing we control everyday at the Shelter is an organization that helps people out of homelessness and does so successfully 365 days per year because our goal is that. We want to help people out of homelessness, that’s different from wanting to help homeless people. Lots of overlap, but a different mission. Thanks, Brad

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