Tuesday, November 24, 2009
MONEY FOR THE HOMELESS?
NYT--They are a familiar sight on street corners across the five boroughs of NYC: Men and women standing behind folding card tables, urging passers-by to throw a little change into the empty plastic water jug marked “U.H.O.”
But an investigation by Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo appears to have confirmed what many New Yorkers secretly (if somewhat guiltily) suspected all along: The United Homeless Organization, supposedly a nonprofit group set up to help feed and house the homeless, was actually an elaborate fraud.
According to a complaint filed by Mr. Cuomo on Tuesday morning, U.H.O. does not operate a single shelter, soup kitchen or food pantry. It does not provide food or clothing to the homeless. It does not even donate money to other charities that do.
Most of those coins and bills, Mr. Cuomo contended, end up in the pockets of those working the donation tables, who paid a daily fee to the group’s founder and president, Stephen Riley, and its director, Myra Walker, for the right to use the U.H.O. tables, jugs and aprons. The rest of the money is kept by Mr. Riley and Ms. Walker, and has been used for a variety of expenses not related to U.H.O. business, including expenses at Weightwatchers.com fees, Toys ‘R’ Us, PC Richards, Bed, Bath & Beyond, as well as premium cable and electricity bills at their homes.