Now Andrew Cuomo has joined the fold of critics, and because he's the state attorney general that's bad news for U.H.O. His office has filed a civil suit against the group, in the hopes of shutting them down.
In the process, a lot of people could get hurt.
“U.H.O. exploits the good intentions of people who thought that their charitable donations were helping to fund services for the homeless,” Cuomo said in a statement, according to the Times. “Instead, their donations go directly to U.H.O.’s principals and workers, who abused the organization’s tax-exempt status to line their own pockets.”
It works like this: the table staffers pay the organization $15 a day, like franchisees, and in return get to pocket the rest of the money they collect that day. None of the money collected goes to support food pantries or any other social services, but most of the people working the tables are homeless or formerly homeless.
If true, it's vexing that the organization's two-member board, Stephen Riley (president) and Myra Walker (director), make a healthy profit off the generosity of others in order to finance their extravagant (relative to mine) lifestyle: cable television, meals in restaurants, trips on airplanes. But shutting down U.H.O. promises to cut off the modest but steady cash flow received by the indigent men and women who staff the tables.
“I only get about $25 a day,” one homeless man on 14th Street told the Times. “I give them $15 and I keep $10 for myself. It’s not that much money.”
“It enables me to have some money,” said another, who added, according to the Times that he uses the cash to buy food and rent a room in Harlem.
Now what are these people going to do?