LOS ANGELES – LA County taxpayers will confuse themselves trying to keep up with the amount of money flowing to help the homeless. Between the City of Los Angeles’ push for Measure HHH, and LA County’s Measure H, an extraordinary amount of funds are flowing to nonprofits, while the number of homeless continues to increase.
In November 2017, interested cities were awarded planning grants to develop city-specific plans to prevent and combat homelessness, through an initiative created by L.A. County and United Way of Greater Los Angeles’ Home for Good Funders Collaborative and financed by an allocation of more than $2 million from the County Board of Supervisors. 40 cities submitted plans.
In September 2018, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved $9 million in Measure H funding to bolster the work of cities in implementing city-specific plans to combat and prevent homelessness. The funds will be allocated to cities through an RFP solicitation process, in conjunction with the United Way of Greater Los Angeles’ Home for Good Funders Collaborative.
In January 2019, L.A. County made an increased in investment in partnership with the cities by awarding $3.8 million in Measure H funding to bolster the implementation of city-specific plans to combat and prevent homelessness.
During this time, Sachi Hamai served as the CEO of LA County, while simultaneously being on the board of United Way of Greater LA. It is also believed she served on its board when a donation made by then Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas ended up at United Way’s headquarters as opposed to the local office in Los Angeles.
Ridley-Thomas directed the head of USC Social Work to contact Peter Manzo, chief executive of United Ways of California to steer a $100,000 campaign donation on behalf of Sebastian Ridley-Thomas.
Manzo said it was unusual for USC to donate to his organization, a statewide advocacy group. Typically, he said, L.A. donors gave to the local United Way of Greater Los Angeles. He said he assumed USC was interested in PRPI’s efforts to study African Americans throughout California. Manzo said he was never informed Ridley-Thomas’ campaign fund was the source of the money.
“My impression was that [Sebastian Ridley-Thomas has] got a good project, and they are trying to do the right thing,” Manzo said.LA Times
Simultaneously, as Ridley-Thomas was leveraging County contracts, allegedly in exchange for his son a professorship at USC, he was also leveraging his position to attack the Sheriff who appeared to be on to his scheme.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva alluded to a potential crime taking place between the County and United Ways.
The kerfuffle surrounded the County proposing the ballot measure, through the United Way, to reduce the Sheriff’s budget, allegedly to better address mental health and jail diversion services. It appears to be more of a “payday” for people and organizations close to Mark Ridley-Thomas.
Measure H passed. Hamai walked away with a $1.5 million settlement for “security”, and Mark Ridley-Thomas has been indicted on nearly two dozen counts of abusing his position.
What’s happened to the money from Measure H?
The County has implemented two programs to provide housing for the homeless: Project Homekey and Project Roomkey which continue to miss the mark, while service providers charged with “doing the work” increase salaries within their organizations, while the homeless continue to languish on the streets.
For example, First to Serve promoted a winter shelter for residents in South LA/Inglewood/Lennox who were experiencing homelessness. In 2016, it was big news that First to Serve was going to perform this work, as its CEO was connected to Chip Murray (Mark Ridley-Thomas) and Mayor Eric Garcetti (as seen in the photo).
First to Serve was founded by Rev. Richard Reed and is a multi-million dollar service provider for the community. It provides transitional and interim housing, domestic violence, substance abuse services, sober-living, registered licensed substance programs, and out-patients programs.
“I want to be a vessel for services to the underserved communities of Los Angeles. I’m reacting to the needs of the community,” says Rev. Reed.
Tax records show First to Serve nearly doubled their receipt of government grants in 2018. The prior year they brought in close to $6 million and the next year $14 million. Program service revenue took a steep hit and decreased from $3 million to $120,000. Reed’s salary remained at $144,000, however, he was given a $40,000 salary increase the following year. A nearly $80,000 loan was provided (presumably) to Reed that doesn’t show as being paid back.
Historically, First to Serve didn’t report payment of any travel related expenses for “federal, state, or local” public officials until 2019 when they record $350.000 in expenses.
From 2010 to 2019 the data shows the number of homeless increased by 39%, while pay to executives & directors increased by 104%.
Their website still details they provide shelters in SPA areas 5 and 6, however, a phone call to St. Margaret’s Center determined that isn’t necessarily true.
“We worked so hard to get that winter shelter up and running, and then once it got approved, they shut it down citing no participation,” said the person who answered (we are protecting their identity to avoid retaliation).
City ethics reports detail Reed gave a maximum campaign contribution to Ridley-Thomas’ return to city council where his priority would have been the “homeless”.
How do you not preclude this is “quid pro quo”?
To be continued….