After spending much of the COVID-19 pandemic living in county-run motels, Arley Adcock received the news he’d been waiting more than a year to hear: He was finally approved to move into his own apartment.
He had a housing voucher, a lease for a $2,100-a-month downtown studio apartment, and a company hired by San Diego County to help him find an apartment and navigate the bureaucracy of securing government assistance.
The 58-year-old from Santee packed up his tent and sleeping bag, filled a suitcase with clothing and a few family keepsakes and moved into his small studio last October with his 11-year-old dog named Cheyenne.
Why This Matters
During the pandemic, San Diego County spent millions to house people affected by COVID-19 in hotels. The program was also intended to secure permanent housing for those in need, but that hasn’t been the outcome for some residents as they try to navigate a complex system of government agencies and programs.
“When we first moved in I was like, oh my god, I can’t believe this is finally happening,” he said of his single room with a twin bed, small desk and kitchenette. It wasn’t much, but it was the first place he could call home since 2019.
“And now that’s about to be ripped out from underneath.”
Last month, Adcock received a notice that he owes nearly $9,000 in unpaid rent. After investigating, he said he learned that the county’s contractor failed to file an extension on his housing voucher, and it expired days before he moved into the studio apartment.
He’s been threatened with eviction if he doesn’t pay up by May 17. And now, Adcock is facing the fear of having to once again unroll his sleeping bag in a park with Cheyenne and his suitcase by his side.
“I spoke with Legal Aid,” he said, referring to a nonprofit law firm that assists low-income San Diegans with housing issues. “I’m making phone calls. I’m doing what I can to try to resolve this.”
In the midst of a worsening homelessness crisis, Adcock is somehow slipping through the safety net of two government agencies, one private company and millions of dollars in public funding.
Both the county and city’s public housing programs have had a hand in managing Adcock’s housing voucher, and the county hired a company called Equus Workforce Solutions to help him and others find housing and manage paperwork.
But Adcock says none have helped him through this fiasco, which he says was created when his case manager failed to file paperwork on time.
When inewsource asked about Adcock’s case, the San Diego Housing Commission confirmed that Adcock had a valid Section 8 voucher at one point, but it expired in October after he failed to request an extension from the county. What’s more, Adcock never submitted the proper paperwork to the city requesting to rent the downtown apartment with a valid housing voucher, city officials said.
Because he never successfully leased an apartment with the housing commission’s assistance, he’s never been considered a participant of the city’s rental assistance program.
inewsource reached out to Equus, the property manager, San Diego Housing Commission and the County of San Diego, but no one has provided an explanation as to how Adcock was able to lease an apartment after his voucher expired.
‘I lost everything’
Adcock first experienced homelessness in 2019. Over the course of a year “I lost everything,” he said.
It started with his Caltrans job. A back injury with nerve damage and debilitating pain forced him out of work. Then both of his parents, his partner of 13 years and multiple close friends who he “thought of as family” all died. And then he lost his parents’ house.
Adcock and his dog were living in a tent in a Santee park when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
San Diego County’s emergency response included a hotel program that served two groups of people: those who had come in contact with the coronavirus and had nowhere to safely isolate, and those who were unhoused and at-risk for developing severe illness if they did come in contact. Officials hired Equus to run the program.
In January 2021, a homeless outreach worker from PATH helped place Adcock in an Old Town hotel as part of the county’s at-risk portion of the program. This was before an inewsource investigation, and an independent review, uncovered mismanagement, poor training and neglect inside one of the Equus-run isolation hotels.
For Adcock, going into the hotel was a blessing.
“Going straight from a tent into that place … I can say that it saved my life,” he recalled of the Old Town hotel. Three meals a day, a clean room and available nursing staff all buoyed him at a time when his health was failing. Adcock was putting off having a needed surgery because he had no way to care for Cheyenne. Eventually he ended up in the intensive care unit for three days before having surgery.
“If I would have been in a tent, I would have died,” he said.
Equus staff also helped him get him a Section 8 housing voucher, a form of federal assistance that has a 10-year waitlist in San Diego. But he still had difficulty finding an apartment. He said he was denied from multiple units because of his lack of income or poor credit, even with his housing voucher.
This was all happening at a time when Adcock was recovering from major abdominal surgery in addition to struggling with chronic back pain and diabetes. His health conditions are why he was one of eight people the county kept in hotels even after the pandemic-era program ended last July. inewsource followed Adcock last year during his search for housing after the hotel program ended.
What happened next was complicated.
As he continued looking for housing, a San Diego Housing Commission official emailed Adcock to tell him his Section 8 voucher was set to expire in 30 days, and he needed to request an extension from the county, which was the agency that issued the voucher. Two Equus employees were copied on the email, which included instructions on how to seek the extension.
Adcock said he asked his case manager to submit the request for him. Then in October, an email to him and four Equus housing managers congratulated Adcock on his approval for an apartment. By the end of the month he was all moved in.
“As far as I knew everything was already done,” he said.
Adcock didn’t find out until February that no one was paying his rent. The building’s property managers, Royal Property Management, sent him the notice and he quickly reached out to the San Diego Housing Commission. Officials there said his housing voucher expired in the fall, shortly before he moved into this apartment. He hasn’t had a valid voucher since.
He immediately felt angry and scared, he said.
“Very scared because of my medical condition, my dog Cheyenne’s medical conditions. I don’t think we’ll be able to survive if we have to go back out like we did.”
So often he’s looked out his window at the rain and been thankful to be inside.
“Every day I would sit here, with this rainy season that we just had, and I would thank the good lord every time I’d look out the window and see it raining … for the roof over our head,” he said.
Because he is diabetic, Adcock takes insulin which he must keep refrigerated, something he’ll have no way to do if he and Cheyenne are living on the street.
“They may as well just hand me a death sentence,” he said.
Adcock said the Equus housing manager never submitted the extension after he asked. When he tried to reach his former case worker, he said he was told he was no longer the company’s client.
When inewsource reached out to Equus, they declined to comment on Adcock’s case.
Since getting the news about his rent going unpaid, Adcock has struggled emotionally.
“It’s very difficult … to do anything,” he explained. “I have none of that energy or drive anymore. Everything is just sucking the life out of me.
“I get up every morning for her,” he said of his dog Cheyenne as she sat in the corner.
Adcock and his partner, Kathy, adopted Cheyenne when she was a puppy and they were living in Brawley. She became a companion and service dog for Kathy who suffered from seizures.
“Now that Kathy has passed, she’s my emotional support animal,” he explained.
Aside from taking Cheyenne for walks and attending to his own medical needs, he said he now spends his days trying to get in touch with anyone who can help him because those who are supposed to help him have stopped.
He’s hoping he might get some help from the Legal Aid Society of San Diego, which is working on his behalf.
“I’m trying my best to resolve this in every way that I can,” he said. “It’s in the lord’s hands. That’s all I can say.”
Type of Content
News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.