Posts Tagged nonprofit

Women and children kicked to the curb

Last week school started back up here in Dallas. Four women with children resided at “The Keep” at that time. On Monday morning the director of client services came in around 9 am and found out that these women didn’t have their children ready when the school bus came to pick them up. Needless to say, the children did not attend school that day.

The director of client services then had these four women, their children and their belongings loaded into the shelter van, a van that had been donated to the shelter to transport clients to and from work, doctors appointment and other constructive activities, and had them dumped in front of another shelter, thrown out on the street despite one of the desk supervisors at “The Keep” confirming via a phone call that the other shelter had no room for four women and their children. The driver was instructed by the director of client services “just leave them there and come back”.

Now here is where I am confused. If I were the director of client services and I made it my business to make sure the children get to school, would I not inform the mothers of when the children needed to be ready for the bus? Would I not be at the shelter at 7 am on the first day of school to make sure the moms had all the support they needed? And would I not call CPS if I thought the moms were neglecting their duty?

How were the children being helped, did the action of the director of services make a difference? They still did not get to school that day and not knowing where the children ended up, maybe back with their abusive father, I can’t say if they made it to school at all yet.

No one can convince me that four women conspired not to have their children ready that day! Somehow, and since I know the director of client services, I know someone didn’t do their job.

How can one provide services to the homeless when the shelter discharges people at 6 am in the morning until 1:30 pm, and the director of client services works from 9 am until 4 or 5 pm with an hour lunch in between?

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The myth of gift cards

Christmas 2011 the shelter asked gift cards to be donated to the clients. There was a wish tree with angels and the angels had a number corresponding to a specific client. Visitors to “The Keep” would take these angels and return gift cards, reassured the person whose number was on the angel would get the gift card. However, it was not permitted to hand these cards directly to the clients, they had to be turned in to the executive director. “We are trying to keep it fair for everyone and will hand out the cards on the 23rd” was the official explanation.

Now the executive director went and bought $5 cards, handed those and a few of the donated cards to the clients and kept many $20, $25, $50 and even $100 cards in his office, not inventoried, “for later use”, gave some to vendors and was contemplating to give some to his children when they came to the shelter “to do some good work”.

These gift cards were designated for specific people, and not to supplement the shelter’s budget or be given to vendors.

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Take it in the teeth

Here is a public statement from the current executive director of  “The Keep”.

 “The biggest public perception is that these people are lazy and don’t want to work. With mental illness, somebody has to look after them with more compassion, more nurturing and more love.”

The following is a handout from “The Keep’s” executive staff to clients, expressing  “more compassion, more nurturing and more love”.  Since this communication is public domain, I see no need to remove the name of the organization.

To ALL Austin Street Clients:

“A letter full of lies, and unsigned, was sent to the State of Texas Parole Board and our Board of Directors about supposed terrible things being done at our shelter. I know this was not done by one person alone. Whoever wrote it had help. I don’t care who did it now. 

But I have said enough times, you will all take it in the teeth when someone does destructive things. I suggest you talk to the person that did it and tell them thanks for making your lives a little harder. 

No one is told they have to stay with us. Go somewhere else if you don’t like it. 

Start acting like adults and stand up for what you think is right. Men and women of character do this. Otherwise, complaining as no purpose. And people with guts don’t hide. Kids do. 

You are all adults; start acting like it. No one owes you anything. This shelter exists to help and care for you better than any other. Is this how to say thanks? 

No childlike behavior will be tolerated at all to any degree. Acting like adults is one part of moving forward.”

The executive director then “punished” all clients by not permitting admission to the shelter until 5 p.m. and left town. Upon his return the following Monday the “ban” was lifted.

“The Keep”  makes public promises to solicit money and I do believe it owes what it promises since supporters contributions are based upon those promises made.

And if the executive staff of  “The Keep” expects “Thank you”, they have no place working at “The Keep”. Nothing they do is a contribution, they get paid for their time and work, everything else comes from donors who deserve thanks and gratitude. And what does it say about a person’s character expecting “thank you” working in this field anyway? Is that a solid Christian way of thinking?

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“Merchandising”

Visitors permitted into the shelter only saw and heard what the “Trident” had carefully orchestrated, some homeless people were “asked” to leave for a few hours out of fear they would cause problems, or simply because they did not “look” the part, and others were instructed on what to do and say, even had to change clothe so it would look like in-kind donations were used appropriate. The daughter would grab some women and set them up to give the impression classes were being taught. Afterwards these women would be paid for their participation.

Should a representative of a grant foundation come to visit, homeless would be paired up with employees in order to give the impression of a functional work rehab program, women would be set up again to look like a class, and a computer room was “all of a sudden functional” to teach resume skills. Again, payment was made to encourage the homeless to participate in the perception and to encourage “desirable” behavior.

There always was and still is the implication of dire consequences should one not comply, intentionally or accidentally.

Through the years practicum students from mayor universities would come to the shelter, not so much to make a difference, but to “practice” what they have learned thus far. Not that the homeless would gain anything, but the association with that university looks very good on paper when asking foundations for money. Of course, people were carefully selected and paid by the shelter director to participate in these courses.

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Nepotism at work

“The Keep” is presided over by a board of directors that pretty much is oblivious to the plight of the homeless, so much, that the previous director was able to convince most people in the shelter that she owned the shelter and it was hers to with what she wanted. This claim was supported by the fact that her husband was second in command and her daughter third. So, imagine you had a grievance, who would you approach?

Her husband was addicted to painkillers and psych medication and when he ran out of pills he got from several doctors, he would buy from within the shelter. His wife had him on a very short leash and he never had money, so he pawned his jewelry to those who out of fear would sell him their own prescribed medication. In his ill mind paying for the pills was the right thing to do, never mind if someone refused he would give his wife a reason to bar that person, telling her that person had been to another shelter would be enough reason. She did not like it when people sought resources from other agencies in an effort to improve their circumstances.

I remember once his wife had bought him 1 ct diamond studs and within a month he had “lost” them. Of course she knew, would tell everyone in how much pain he was all the time, how sick he was and how grateful everyone should be that he still would come to work and take care of the homeless. After a while when he ran out of ways to pay for his habit, mysteriously a few people were accused of stealing, their belongings searched, jewelry found and of course they had to leave the shelter. But that did not end the cycle, he just targeted different people.

Her daughter would date homeless men from within the shelter and when the “relationship” did not “work-out” the director would run around the shelter and scream and holler how “that guy took advantage of her daughter, got caught stealing, was the devil, and you all better not betray me like that or I make sure you have to leave town”.

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Conundrum

I have reached a point where continuing most likely will expose the organization in this blog and with that may have consequences for people living there. Not that I want to gamble with their well-being, but for my own sake I have to keep on writing. Thinking about the members on the board of directors it can also have repercussions for me and my family. But if I can make a difference in just one person’s life it would be worth it, regardless of what follows. That sounds so cliché, but that is what life is all about, isn’t it, pursuing that one moment where we can step out and distinguish ourselves from the crowd.

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Homeless people are needed

Homeless people are “homeless”, not coatless or sandwichless!  Sure, they do need temporarily help with clothing and food, but beyond that I have not seen one donor coming back “hey, I got a place for you to stay”. Why is that?

Those in need and those wanting to help have entered into a symbiotic relationship. On one side the needy have their short-term need answered by receiving a free coat and a sandwich and on the other the person providing the coat and sandwich feels good about handing out donations.

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