We’ve all seen those guys on the street with folding tables and a big empty water jug, soliciting funds for the homeless. We’ve all also probably wondered whether the operation is really legit and with good reason! Attorney General Cuomo has filed suit against the United Homeless Organization and is looking to shut it down for good after discovering that founder Stephen Riley and director Myra Walker were using the funds as their personal bank account.
The way it works is, the homeless people who man the tables pay a $15 fee to the UHO for each shift, and keep the change they collect for themselves. This is not news; it’s how the organization openly admits it is run. Also not news is that the fees go not to the homeless population at large but to upper management. In 2008, Guest of a Guest looked at the UHO’s tax returns and found that most of those $15 shift fees went toward “support stipends” for Riley and “management expenses.” “I’ll leave you to speculate as to what the UHO could possible [sic] spend” that money on, the author of that post, Samantha Queen, wrote at the time.
Well, now we know: According to the papers filed by Cuomo, Riley and Walker spend it on “personal shopping sprees at the GameStop, Home Shopping Network, Bed Bath & Beyond and P.C. Richard, as well as their monthly cable bills.” Well then. Glad that’s all cleared up. At least now when you walk right past those big jugs, you can blame your indifference on your knowledge of this scam, and not on your cold, selfish heart.