For persons following this story, it has changed in theme dramatically over the past few months and evolved into an alarming story that has, incredibly, gone from bad to worse. Katie’s story reveals not just the willingness of people to take advantage of the situation to profit from her misfortune, but also the absence of meaningful help from the organizations in place to insure her refuge. That includes institutions that are either charged by the State, or proclaim it their mission to help the homeless in order to receive public funding, donations and tax exempt status. These organizations are expected by government to follow the letter of the law (the American Disabilities Act), not look for loopholes to discriminate against a vulnerable individual. These organizations are willing to help any homeless person, with the exception being if you are crippled woman with a service dog. The original issue was supposed to be a matter of temporary homelessness as Katie actually owns a home. In the meantime, rather than focusing energy and resources on solving a much smaller crisis, now there are complications such as the towing company (Collins Brothers) selling her handicapped accommodating vehical – a 2015 Kia Sorrento. They had the audacity to do this without even notifying Katie. A criminal investigation should not just be expected but demanded by the public in addition to questions asked regarding their collaboration with the SCPD. Katie’s car was taken from her in a process that brought no citation or criminal charges. Read on…
Last Saturday night, Callie Sanchez sprang into action assessing the hurt and calming the pain of a woman with a crippling back injury. This homeless woman took a tumble slipping on ice attempting to get into a vehicle she is forced to use in lieu of her own specially equiped Kia, which has been sitting in a St. Cloud impound lot the last two months. Ignoring a plate of treats in obvious reach, Callie scampered protectively about her as she lay in tears and excrutiating pain. Her back is fused with titanuim, she is supposed to have daily bedrest, falling down is strictly against doctors orders. Callie Sanchez curled up beside her. Callie is not an EMT, she is Katie’s nationally registered service dog. They have both been inexcusably homeless for over two months. Katie owns her own home.
As an award-winning filmmaker, author, news professional and news contributor for more than 20 years, I want to call attention to a particular incident that happened over Thanksgiving week in St. Cloud, Mn. As a member of media, there is an ethical responsibility to bring a voice to the potentially otherwise voiceless. The subject of this story, Katie, is at great risk of being swept away by societal apathy, administrative dysfunction, and quickly disempowered and disregarded like so many others in our community. This story is revealing in its extremes.
The following is the tale of a handicapped woman who now, with her service dog Callie, has been rendered not just homeless in her quest for pca care (personal care assistant), but is a also a victim of clearly questionable police work. This story is shockingly blatent and tragic, but yet unresolved. There is still room for a dignified ending to the story for this bold woman and her perky service dog. Incredibly, they currently reside in the basement of a local church where, because of her handicap, she is unable to even climb the stairs to attend a religious service. The idea that she is trapped in the basement goes beyond metaphor as she has run into many stonewalls asking for help and information about her situation and…and now she is presently without cellphone service. The walls are beginning to close in and hope is abating as no evident progress concerning her situation is being made. As her personal friend, and knowing that her ongoing situation puts her fragile health in serious jeopardy, I couldn’t stand by and do nothing.
According to law: “Under the ADA, State and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go.” By the grace of God, Katie and Callie can’t legally be barred from the public homeless shelter or the churches that give her refuge. Of course she is still offered the reassurance that if she doesn’t like her treatment, she can just get out. (URGENT UPDATE – Eviction from Place of Hope in violation of federal law: see below)
The entire story of my friend is troubling on many levels. She is handicapped due to an experimental medical procedure which went wrong and resulted in a tumor on her spine. An extensive investigative report on this act of medical negligence is a work in progress by a leading Minnesota newspaper. She has suffered a degenerative spine condition as a result and with the inability to straighten her back fully, is assisted by a stroller. Her service dog, a chihuahua, faithfully brings her the smiles and affection that she needs to keep her spirits up as she courageously and self-suffiently maintained her life. Callie is a service dog who’s purpose is to help her with pain management due to Katie’s allergies to pain medication. Before the operation, Katie even owned a succesful local business.
Katie now owns her own trailer home and has a new Kia that is dissability accomodating to aid in her safe transport. As she was adjusting to her life and everything she lost since the surgery, she contracted a local builder to make improvements to her home including handicapped accessibilty and also in preparation to have prescribed assisted care.
A critical chain of events unfolded when her social worker called the city inspector because she had concerns about the progress of work on the house which was now significantly behind schedule.
The city inspector in Waite Park discovered that the builder neglected to file for the necessary permits for the work he was doing. The inspector declared the home uninhabitable and Katie had to get out. This was a startling blow for which she was unprepared, and no temporary housing offered to accomodate their sudden order to vacate. The move to evict Katie literally happened overnight. Although understandably distressed and confused, Katie was trusting that this would be a very temporary situation. Afterall, it would seem that the point of social services is not to uproot and abandon a handicapped person with medical needs.
Katie and Callie were evicted and spent that November night before Thanksgiving in her car in a parking lot.
The next day, Katie went to her social worker, reviewed her status, and sought counsel on where she might go for shelter since the process of seeking in home care very suddenly resulted in homelessness.
Her first attempt at finding refuge was through Ann Marie’s shelter. Because she was not at that time a victim of domestic violence, she was not allowed to stay.
Her next intended stop was a homeless shelter only a block away. Still trying to process her rejection and running short of hope, she was at a stop and waiting for her moment to round the corner when she was startled by a knock on the window behind her. It was the St. Cloud police.
The officer who appeared from seemingly nowhere (because he was presumably parked on the other side of the street as she pulled up) demanded that she get out of her vehicle.
The officer ordered a field sobriety test which was impossible for her to perform without her walker.
The officer became increasingly agitated and angry as she blew zeros on the breathalizer after repeated tests.
“You have to be on something!” He exclaimed. Due process began to slip further away as he took control of the situation. The tow truck had even arrived before he was done forcing her to repeat the breathalizer tests and Katie’ Kia was already slowly sliding up the ramp.
In conducting this interview I continually sought any information which would have indicated some sort of probable cause for the officer to begin with, and came up blank. There was no explanation uttered or obvious law infringed upon that would have justified the officer to proceed with any sort of traffic stop. Probable cause is crucial from a legal standpoint when iniating an arrest. Katie knew the officer was past the point of attempting to reason with because he was increasingly furious that she was blowing zeros and the officer’s mind was already made up. At this point she did the best to maintain her composure in this increasingly distressful situation…as was related by the subject of my interview.
Unable to even stand up straight because of her surgery, Katie was cuffed behind her back as her car was searched and her dog, whom she had never been apart from for any significant amount of time since they had been paired, was taken away to the pound.
“Take her plates!” The officer yelled to the tow truck driver, according to Katie’s account. The license plates were removed from her car.
Katie’s prescription medication, pills and all, were ultimately scattered about the car in the quest to find anything illegal, which did not occur. At the time of this publishing she has never been formally charged with any crime. Unfortunately the ugly twists and turns of this injustice were far from over.
Katie spent the night in jail, without even the support of her cane to move about. She left the next morning. To her knowlege, her driver’s license has not been revoked. She recieved no ticket, and has no explanation for the events other than the officer’s angry retribution she recieved from him for being wrong, and making a false assumption…then continuing to toss her vehicle in the effort to find anything to cover for his mistake…without even having probable cause to begin with.
( 4/4/16 – It can be proven now that the officer took her plates in violation of the law.)
Now what? Would the echoes of intimidation and fear of legal consequences prompt the victim to silently fade away? Was somebody’s hand caught in the cookie jar this time? Would this embarrassing situation of violating due process even ever go before a judge? So far it hasn’t. So far the county hasn’t even invested in a postage stamp to further this case, yet it is implied that Katie must pay a now outrageous bill to get her vehicle returned which was taken without probable cause or due process. The car has been sitting at Collin’s Brother’s lot over 6 weeks now. This is how Katie has become trapped for weeks in the basement of a homeless shelter.
Don’t believe stories like this are uncommon in St. Cloud, they simply aren’t often reported and many times the persons victimized are either intimidated or don’t understand their rights. Many in the process simply believe they have no voice and are in many cases correct. When they plea out, their side of the story is never heard. They feed a system where so much money is to be made that there is incredible conflict of interest in the midst of bountiful job security. For many, homelessness is an inevitable extension of the same program. Katie just enrolled in homelessness for the first time.
Released from jail, Katie was next brought to the doorstep of the destination she had only been hundreds of feet from reaching before her terrible brush with the law. Found crying in the basement of what was suddenly her new residence, her story began to unfurl, but optimism returned to her face as she worked to pull some money and transportation together to retrieve her car and little service dog. With several hundred dollars now in hand, supposedly enough to retrieve her car, personal belongings and dog…she ventured out to empower herself again. She returned later empty handed and realizing there was a longer and tougher road ahead. The pricetag was more than simply getting her car out of impound that day.
Because the officer had ordered her license plates removed, she couldn’t retrieve her car. She was only able to retrieve the bare minimum from her car that is allowed by law…that bare minimum might have included her scattered medication and house keys…but ironically and mysteriously, the Katie’s keys were lost by Collins Brothers towing company and apparently still are. A few days later she was at last able to retrieve Callie.
Over 6 weeks later, Katie is still homeless, in the basement and without her car. It was taken without due process in complete violation of her rights in the first place. It is presumed that the city should make this right immediately on their own empowerment to do the right thing and act ethically in its position of authority. Because no one at Katie’s contact level is making any effort to help resolve this, an appeal is now made to the Mayor of St.Cloud to order that Katie’s car be returned to her. Mr Kleis was contacted directly by email concerning this matter. Katie needs her car to begin the process of leaving the basement because that is the first step in the road ahead for her. (State Representatives Jim Knoblach and Tama Theis were told in person by this writer of Katie’s plight at the State Capitol. Even Senator Al Franken is aware of Katie’s suffering by way of a recent Star Tribune article.)
It is reiterated also that this condition is time sensative because Katie’s physical health is directly effected by the rough conditions in which she is living.
Then we have the issue of what is to be done about the debacle concerning Katie’s home. In this case, it is unclear if the builder has the resources or is permitted to even continue the work for which he was paid a large sum almost fully in advance. The city made the decision to evict Katie in a matter of hours, and over 6 weeks later the simple question of, “will the work be soon finished and when?” has not even been fielded…again, this is Katie’s own home and yet she is homeless by no fault of her own. There should be some urgency.
Katie is losing hope. This entire story reveals a broken and innefective system where it seems just acceptably routine now to enable homelessness. Is it too late to unwind a system that worked when it was fueled by true leadership, ethics, compassion and limitless state funding? When criminal laws were designed to protect us, not entrap us?
Katie’s story is real and anyone who has an idea to help her return home as quickly as possible is welcome to contact us. It is not too late to find a positive and dignified ending to this story. Katie’s goal was to be as self sufficient as her medical condition would allow. She did not lose her home, her car, and the life she knew, they were all taken from her with the best we could offer as a community when she came to us seeking help. Its not too late to take some of what has been wrong and make it right again.
Update: 1/21/16 After a week long quest to locate any of Katie’s mail, the trail ran cold at the post office. Every bit of it was returned to sender. Katie burst into tears hearing this news. She has no access to money, her phone time ran out over a week ago. She is still without her vehicle and her prescription medication will soon run out. Last weekend she fell injuring herself trying to nurse her fever. No mainstream press have responded to her cries for help. The mayor’s office has been silent.
Update 2/4/16 Progress has been slow but we have made some steps to restore Katie’s ability to communicate with a phone graciously provided at Century Link. She has begun to recieve mail again but still without her assistance money. She has been sleeping alone in the basement of Place of Hope because a house cat was not allowed to stay at the church of the week. Not wanting to single out the owner of the cat, Katie played along nicely and stayed behind in spite of her protection by federal law that states any non-profit organization has to accomodate her, practically no questions asked.
URGENT UPDATE 2/4/16 Katie is being evicted from PLACE OF HOPE at 5pm today, Monday. The reason for it is unclear and is a violation of federal law. It is evident that Katie is being singled out for some reason. Katie and Callie are very much loved by the residents and Callie is continually crowded for attention. What we gather is that Callie growled at someone and they are using it as an opportunity to say that little Callie is vicious and out of control which is a fabrication. Because Katie is handicapped and vulnerable, it is part of Callie’s duty to alert her when strangers approach, especially when they make her sleep alone. Place of Hope is unfortunately a crossroads for potentially dangerous individuals. Place of Hope had no mention in this post until today and it is questioned if they are singling Katie out for eviction because she has struggled with the lack of handicaped accessibilty and her mistreatment in the last few weeks. Katie has become a liability in spite of her cordial efforts to accomodate the Place of Hope whereas federal law requires them to make reasonable accomodations for her to maintain their nonprofit status. It is a fact of daily existence that residents live under the fear and stress of being kicked out into the cold for arbitrary reasons and even favoritism. There is no predictable guideline or standard. The common threat is always, “if you don’t like it, there’s the door…and you can sleep outside.” Now Katie is once again a victim of the shelter who’s stated mission is to keep her safe. Katie has been advised to maintain her cordial and diplomatic deameanor in order the allow the POH from antagonizing an unsalvageble situation. It is said that pastor Carol made this decision. Katie has asked for an explanation in writing. Press photographers are invited to please capture this moment on film as Katie with her stroller and Callie are ushered into the street on this very cold winter day.
2/9/2016 As the clock ticked down to last minute, Katie was informed that her eviction would be stayed until there could be a conversation with pastor Carol. This buys Katie an uncertain amount of time to focus on herself and get back to solving the problems of ending her own homelessness, but doesn’t solve the issue of having to live fearful of being returned to the cold with little warning or legally satisfactory explanation. The Church of the Week Program was a hopeful respite and escape from the tense, toxic and fearful environment presently at poh, but again, Katie was isolated and denied transportation to the church which again violated federal law. Katie has been welcomed by every church of the week with Callie since her two months in refuge. She simply cannot be denied the same treatment as the others, particularily if the organization claims non profit status. Help please.
2/10/16 Update: Adult Protective Services got wind of Katie’s treatment and stepped in to help get her to refuge. She left Place of Hope yesterday afternoon and is now in their safekeeping. They are helping her find a short-term housing option conducive to her medical needs.
2/24/16 This story continues to be very concerning as adult protective services cut her off giving her a false sense of hope that she would be taken care of and much time wasted that could have been spent getting her on the waiting list for the Salvation Army. Katie is currently 24 on the list. Although Katie’s situation is very serious, I personally overheard her social worker being snarky with her and suggesting that she go to the hospital to stay. Of course Katie replied that “the hospital is not where crippled homeless people go” in search of refuge… Through tears while sitting at the county services waiting room, Katie cried that she only wishes she could “do” what able bodied homeless people can do. Her social worker was implying that she could sleep outside if she had to and it was a serious contingencie for Katie. I offered to try to get her some blankets from POH but she had already asked for a sleeping bag (dozes were reportedly donated around Christmastime) but they had not a one for the crippled woman they evicted for unspoken reasons. Katie is amazingly strained that rather than working on the original issues of solving the problem of her homelessness, she is fighting her descrimination and eviction by pastor Carol of Place of Hope for unclear reasons but quite plausibly because they don’t want attention drawn to the rough conditions and lack of handicapped accessibility there. The following was texted by Katie last evening:
The social worker at social services told me to do what any other homeless person would do without a homeless shelter to go to.
After reminding her of my spinal disabilities and that I can’t do what any strong, able bodied person can do,
her response was that that wasn’t her problem.
So I had to take a cab to ———– for the night.
Being able to lay down will help my spine- but I’m an emotional and physical wreck.
Just wanted to keep you posted and let you know where I landed since Callie and I aren’t welcome at POH.”
3/7/16 In a completely outrageous and unexpected blow to Katie and Callie’s quest to return home, the Salvation Army in St.Cloud, Minnesota quickly denied her intake on the grounds that animals are not allowed. Even after informing them that Callie is a national registered service dog, Katie once again was turned away in shock, confused and heartbroken. This after she patiently waited on the list which she was once number 23 on the list. Read the rest of her amazingly outrageous, shameful and disappointing story on flightflash.com and watch for an investigative report on the medical experimentation that left her crippled. That story will be published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune this coming Sunday or the following Sunday.
3/7/16 VERY URGENT UPDATE – COLLINS BROTHERS TOWING HAS SOLD KATIE’S 2015 KIA SORRENTO WITHOUT NOTICE AND ALL OF HER BELONGINGS WHICH SHE TRIED TO RETRIEVE. A CRIMINAL COMPLAINT WILL BE FILED AND A FULL INVESTIGATION OF COLLINS BROTHERS AND THE THE KATIE’S ARRESTING OFFICER WILL BE DEMANDED.
3/23/16 Updates coming…
Personally, it is very hard to stay objective as this entire story is an outrage.
Go Fund Me for Katie : Help 4 Katie and Callie’s return home
4/10/16 Katie’s story in the Star Tribune http://www.startribune.com/question-of-risk-medtronic’s-lost-Infuse-study/372957441/
See Katie’e emotional reaction.
4/21/16 See Katie’s reaction to Steven being assualted by an employee of Collins Brothers Towing while investigating the theft of her car, a new 2015 Kia Sorrento that is handicapped accommodating. https://youtu.be/fVC2kK-K9Xk
In May she hired Steven as her PCA which afforded them a significant opportunity to finance completetion of the house.
In June Katie was formerly charged with DUI.
It is a fact that she learned of this while her and I were in a private meeting with the chief of internal affairs who attempted to get Katherine to make a recorded statement before informing her of the charges. I advised Katherine to be silent upon learning this. It is also a FACT although I am not sure Katherine knows this, but the charges were formally processed through the court the same morning we arranged for the next days meeting…..but they werent processed after we requested the meeting….they were litterally processed a few hours before. That is a fact. If the move was retaliatory, its possible it came from Collins Brothers towing or a result of meddling from St.Johns Episcopal church. Ironicly there are an entire cluster of individuals in this adopted congregation which have direct root in the greatest complications in her life throught this story. It creeps me out to no end. I have been unabe to investigate further.
On 6/21 I had an important meeting with a very prominant attorney in town that advised that not only did Katherine have a case that that may be successfully argued in court, if she won, she could have a significant civil suit.
*Since the writer’s fiance (a former SCTCC professor) was recently exploited, indoctrinated, and then absorbed into an international cult organization accused of fraud, Sohlstrom has worked to be a voice for truth and an advocate for exploited persons. Further narratives on this and related topics will be revealed in his forthcoming book “Stearn’s County Submarine Academy”.
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