The city of Denver, Colorado did a bad thing. CBS4 reports that an investigation has revealed a gross misuse of funds intended to help the homeless. The city used thousands upon thousands of dollars not to provide the needy with food, shelter, and counseling, but instead to kick them out of Denver’s ballpark neighborhood in March. During the sweep, the city confiscated what little belongings the homeless people owned, never returning them.
Emails obtained by the station revealed that officials decided to use funds donated to the Denver’s Road Home program, a “Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness” and “help Denver’s homeless regain control of their lives,” to fund the expensive, highly controversial purge of the less-fortunate from the neighborhood — a disgusting effort with a $60,000 price tag attached:
Jose Cornejo, the executive director of Denver Public Works, emailed his fellow city administrators Feb. 11, “We do not have in our budget a line item this extra cost to handle personal item, storage and distribution.”
Brendan Hanlon, the City of Denver Chief Financial Officer, responded on Feb. 12,” We can charge off these costs to the homeless donations fund.”
The group email went to the Mayor’s Chief of Staff Evan Dreyer, Cornejo and several other ranking city officials.
“Sounds like a plan,” wrote Cornejo within an hour.
The donated money, which totals about $100,000 per year, is supposed to ” be dedicated to mental health and substance abuse services in our community” and used for meals, job training, housing, “and other programs for those in need.” The website states that “No money at all goes to the City of Denver.” But, of course, this was all a lie, and city officials used 60% of the average yearly donations for the purge — something they apparently decided is one of those “other programs.”
“I think when people give money to the city to help the homeless they fully anticipate that’s what those funds will be used for,” said Cathy Alderman, a representative of Colorado’s Coalition for the Homeless. “I think the public who donated here would be very disappointed.”
“I think it’s appalling,” said Denise Maes, public policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union. “People who give money to help the homeless believe their money is being spent the way they want it to be. This is clearly an abuse of the public trust.”
When the news station began asking city officials some very uncomfortable questions, the officials immediately stopped what they were doing — not because it was wrong, but because they got caught. Mayor Michael Hancock even attempted to claim he knew nothing about what was going on (though his entire administration was aware):
”This was one of those administrative snafus you picked up on… and we’ve already corrected it thanks to your investigation and its done and we move on.”
And, of course, nothing malicious was meant by the officials who stole money from the homeless fund for their own purposes:
“I don’t think it was mal-intent on anyone’s part. Someone may have looked at that fund and said “this seems appropriate,” but when you called it to our attention we took a closer look. It’s been corrected.”
The earmarked $60,000 was just the tip of the iceberg. Ultimately, the total amount that would be taken from the fund would have been $76,289.11. Fortunately, CBS4 caught on to the scam early, when only $10,740 had been paid out. A spokeswoman for the city says that, now that the jig is up, Denver’s Public Works department will repay the stolen money and burden taxpayers with the cost of the purge instead.
“I certainly don’t buy the fact it’s a mistake. You caught them. They say ‘That doesn’t look good.’ I think that’s a whitewash,” Maes told the station. Alderman expressed fears that people will be less likely to donate to the cause now that the scam has been revealed:
“If you have an administration using funds in a questionable way of course you are going to decrease confidence in the process.”
If you would like to share your thoughts on this, Mayor Hancock’s office number is 720-865-9000. We’re sure he would appreciate your thoughts.
Watch a report on this horrible misuse of funds below:
Featured image via screengrab