Sacramento County gives homeless advocate the run around with services for unhoused wheelchair user

Robert J Hansen
Sacramento County Department of Human AssistancePublic Domain

After two months of efforts by advocates, Sacramento County cannot provide health or housing services to Bob DeShields, an unhoused man who uses a wheelchair, because his medical needs are “too high.”

“The County will not be able to offer temporary shelter in a motel room nor will Mr. DeShields be placed into Project Room Key,” Julie Field, division manager of DHA, said in an email.

Since early July, Bob DeShields was told by the County that he qualified for the motel voucher yet once he gets there, the motels are either full or not ADA accessible. The County was asked to follow up on to insure the room is secure according to homeless advocate, Zuri Colbert.

DeShields’ medical needs are too high and neither motel nor PRK staff is equipped or trained to manage his care, Field told Colbert.

Field told this to Colbert just days after the County offered to provide 24-hour care to DeShields.

“The County stands by its offer to place Mr. DeShields into a center where he can be safe in shelter, receive meals and medical care 24 hours a day,” Field said.

Colbert has been trying to get DeShields assistance since July 3, when he was found unresponsive in the heat and was taken to a Kaiser hospital.

“We have spent weeks waiting and coordinating the motel vouchers but [with] no ADA rooms and then delay with PRK because of capacity,” Colbert said.

The County has given Colbert wrong information and gone back and forth on helping her and DeShields find temporary solutions.

“I’m sorry those leads were dead ends,” Field said, “I will follow up with the public health team to see if they have something more up to date.”

Colbert said she has not once seen Field out in the field at any of the meetings, assessments for DeShields or with any of our unhoused community members,” Colbert said.

Public Health Nurse Phu Tran said the county completed an assessment of DeShields and qualified for the PRK program and the extreme heat voucher to get out of the scorching hot sun and poor air quality, according to Colbert.

Tran said in an email that DeShields was referred to a 24-hour skilled nursing facility for his care by a physician at the emergency department, but he left of his own will because he wanted more freedom.

“As an APS worker, I have seen the necessity of having an established caregiver in a shelter setting as that relationship allows the person to remain safe and well cared for during their stay,” Tran said.

Colbert said that Tran is using DeShields’ statements of context.

“I appreciate your input Phu, but the statement you are giving from [DeShields] is being taken out of context,” Colbert said

DeShields will need to go to the emergency room or his primary care physician to obtain a referral for a skilled nursing facility, according to Tran.

Colbert hoped she would get a response, and DeShields would be moving into PRK or a skilled nursing facility.

“I assumed we would get the green light, but now the county is saying as of yesterday after weeks of no response that he is eliminated off the list,” Colbert said.

Colbert said she had not seen DeShields in about a week because she had time off.

“I have been waiting for the final word to give him the next steps,” Colbert said.

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Robert J Hansen is an investigative journalist and economist. Focused on holding elected officials, police and the courts accountable to the people throughout the greater Sacramento area.

Sacramento County, CA

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