Esplanade House founders pull financial support, unhappy with executive director


CHICO, Calif. - A power struggle for the control of the Esplanade House has seen the departures of the family homeless shelter's co-founders, who started the non-profit 26 years ago.

Greg Webb, Gary Incaudo and Lynne Bussey co-founded the Esplanade House in 1991.

They say the integrity of the homeless shelter has deteriorated under the management of Tom Tenorio, the executive director of the Community Action Agency of Butte County which oversees the Esplanade House.

"There's a lack of commitment to the program," said Incaudo. "And there is a lack of commitment to the families for their healing because that's what the Esplanade House is all about."

The co-founders have a list of grievances against Tenorio including mismanagement of staff and grant money.

The problem was exasperated two years ago when the federal government began withholding approximately $400,000 in funding because the Esplanade House insisted its clients be on the road to substance-abuse recovery before living at the shelter.

"He didn't get out ahead of it and try to resolve it," said Webb.

Nevertheless, the board of directors of the Community Action Agency voted unanimously to sever its ties with the co-founders even though that will mean losing approximately $80,000 annually in donations from Webb and Incaudo.

"They've been donating pretty faithfully to us for 26 years," said Tenorio. "But we are saying those donations are coming with demands that are unreasonable."

Tenorio said he has the support of most of the 47 families who live at the Esplanade House and thinks the co-founders should stay on the sidelines.

"It's almost like they're looking at us as just a property manager," said Tenorio. "They want complete control of the program."

If given that control, they would likely turn the operations of the Esplanade House to someone other than Tenorio.

"We tried this," said Webb. "It's not working."

"It's like beating your head against the wall."

If Tenorio doesn't resign his position with the Community Action Agency, the co-founders hope it can be taken by over from another agency.