SF alerts non-profit FBI after access to homeless housing was illegally sold to residents

SF alerts non-profit FBI after access to homeless housing was illegally sold to residents
SF alerts non-profit FBI after access to homeless housing was illegally sold to residents

Auditors in San Francisco told the FBI on Thursday about a nonprofit organization in the city that controls nearly $28 million in state funds intended to provide housing for formerly homeless people, saying the organization collects rents inappropriately and remained there when access to housing was illegally sold to residents.

“The Comptroller’s Office and the City Attorney’s Office will support any investigation you deem appropriate,” the letter to the FBI and the San Francisco District Attorney’s White Collar Crime Division reads.

The decision to alert law enforcement to the organization follows a sobering report from the City Comptroller’s Office that urged city officials to consider cutting ties with the United Council of Human Services, a Bayview organization that operates shelters, a walk-in resource center, and safe camping. website, among other services.

For years, the United Council of Human Services has broken the terms of its agreements with the city to properly document the money it spends and ensure fair access to housing for those who need it most. Thursday’s audit draws many of the same conclusions as a similar report on the nonprofit in 2017, which found that the nonprofit misclassified expenses and that its board members directors did not seem to understand how the organization was run.

Following the 2017 findings, the city’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing began using a fiscal sponsor, the Bayview Hunters Point Foundation, to administer $36.4 million in grants to reduce homelessness, most of which falls to the United Council of Human Services. But the similarities between the two audits indicate that the new model is not working.

Representatives of the United Council of Human Services could not immediately be reached on Thursday, and attempts to contact CEO Gwendolyn Westbrook were unsuccessful. In a response submitted with the audit, Westbrook said his organization had been “a trusted partner and steward of the $36.4 million in grant funds entrusted to our nonprofit,” and that the findings of audit are based on “a small partial review of UCHS client records. , a sample size that is not representative of the hundreds of individuals served.

James Bouquin, CEO of the Bayview Hunters Point Foundation, said the foundation “immediately found difficulty” in its role as fiscal sponsor and “the United Council’s resistance to meeting its tax and other obligations”.

When writing the new report, auditors studied a sample of 29 tenants enrolled in United Council of Human Services programs. Twenty-four of them either hadn’t been properly routed through the city’s entry process — which helps guard against patronage — or didn’t have the right documents to show they were eligible to enter. supportive housing.

The incomes of 19 of them were miscalculated. And three were employees of the nonprofit who had bypassed the entry process and had no documentation to prove they were eligible.

In one case, the United Council of Human Services had converted a supportive housing unit into office space, “which is not permitted by grant agreements,” the audit said. The Bayview Hunters Point Foundation was paying a monthly rent of $4,600 for this unit. Separately, a United Council of Human Services employee who auditors said had no paperwork and did not meet Housing Services criteria was living in housing for homeless veterans.

Additionally, the nonprofit received $108,861 in rent from tenants from March to August 2022, even though the organization is not responsible for collecting rent, according to the audit.

At least $30,000 has still not been accounted for because the United Council of Human Services failed to turn it over to the Bayview Hunters Point Foundation so it could be distributed to homeowners. The nonprofit also failed to provide invoices for thousands of dollars in transactions on its American Express card, making it difficult for the Bayview Hunters Point Foundation to seek reimbursement from the city after covering the monthly balance of the card, according to the report.

From February to June of this year, the foundation paid $177,307 for expenses applied to the card, many of which were undocumented. One accusation, for example, came from Amazon, but the United Council of Human Services could not confirm it because it does not have an Amazon account, according to the report.

The auditors highlighted “gaps” in the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing’s oversight of the nonprofit contractor. Department officials did not know the total number of occupied housing units in the three federally funded housing programs operated by the nonprofit, the audit said, noting that occupancy rates in these three programs were “significantly below” those required.

Turnover at secure campsites also took longer than necessary, according to the audit.

Officials from the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing endorsed 13 of the audit’s recommendations, ranging from a new memorandum of understanding that outlines clearer roles for the nonprofit and his fiscal sponsor, to a proposed order that the United Council of Human Services stop collecting rent and return the missing $30,000 to the Bayview Hunters Point Foundation.

But the ministry only partially agreed with a key recommendation – that it consider terminating grant agreements with the nonprofit.

A department spokesperson gave no indication that the city planned to stop working with the struggling nonprofit.

“The department looks forward to supporting our nonprofit partner and new fiscal sponsor to improve its practices and continue the important work of serving our homeless neighbors in the Bayview Hunters Point community,” said spokesperson Denny. Machuca-Grebe to The Chronicle in a statement.

Over the years, Westbrook has donated hundreds of dollars to the campaigns of Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Shamann Walton, who represents the district where his organization is based, according to city ethics documents. Asked to characterize his relationship with Westbrook, Walton said he supports “every nonprofit organization in District 10 as they provide valuable services to the community.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for Breed said the city “requested this audit because the mayor wants to ensure accountability in how we provide services to homeless people. Working with the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, we have already begun to implement the reforms outlined in this comptroller’s report, and our goal is to effectively use our local, state funding funds and federal.

Supervisor Ahsha Safaí viewed the issues cited in the audit as systemic and said in a statement that he was particularly disturbed to hear that the Homelessness Department did not know how many occupied units it was funding. He called for a full audit of the department, “as required” by Proposition C, a ballot measure that voters approved last week.

Echoing these sentiments, Supervisor

of the United Council of Human Services, claiming he was “stealing” the city while taking advantage of the vulnerable people he was supposed to serve.

Westbrook has been an influential figure in San Francisco for years and, according to reports, served as a senior executive assistant for the city’s port in 1997, the year she was charged with embezzlement and theft. qualified for allegedly stealing up to thousands of dollars in parking lot collections.

Rachel Swan is a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. E-mail : [email protected] Twitter: @rachelswan

. alert FBI profit after access housing for the homeless summer sold illegally to residents

. alerts nonprofit FBI access homeless housing illegally sold residents

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