By now many (but probably not most, still) Manhattanites are aware that the United Homeless Organization was revealed last year to be a total sham. Organizers Stephen Riley and Myra Walker would rent out tables, collection canisters, and tax forms to dozens of “volunteers” across the city, who would collect cash from unsuspecting people hoping to help out. The rental fees went straight to Riley and Walker’s pockets, where they’d use it at places like GameStop, Home Shopping Network, and Bed Bath & Beyond. (Riley even used some to pay for his Weight Watchers.)
The money collected from do-gooders would be pocketed by the volunteers themselves. So a judge ruled the whole organization a fraud and disbanded it, barring its leaders from ever working in “nonprofit” again. But many of the so-called volunteers have realized that they don’t need the larger organization to perform the scam, and are just continuing to solicit money for themselves in the name of the defunct group. Because this is New York, and fleecing tourists who are appalled by seeing actual homeless people for the very first time has always been a little bit of a cottage industry. As has taking for yourself what other people desperately need!