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Santa Cruz Indymedia | Government & Elections | Health, Housing, and Public Services

Who is funding, operating and administering the 180/180 project?
by John E. Colby
Friday May 3rd, 2013 12:29 AM
After Santa Cruz journalist/activist Robert Norse was unable to obtain the list of those managing the 180/180 project, I submitted several California Public Records Act (CPRA) requests to answer my own questions about who operates, administers and funds 180/180.

This is important to me because I believe the 180/180 project should be open, transparent and accountable.

For example, several disabled homeless people I have advocated for and represented — individuals with serious medical conditions using wheelchairs and walkers — have not gained housing from 180/180. I want to know why not. I want to know where they are on the 180/180 applicant waiting list, if they are even on it. I must know who operates and administers 180/180 to ensure my clients fairly gain permanent housing (which they deserve).

The records I wanted were:

• the incorporation documents of the organization which administers the 180/180 program.
• the most current records of financial contributions to the 180/180 project.
• the most current budgets for the 180/180 project.
• the most current audits for the 180/180 project.
• the most current financial reports, not included in the two items above, for the 180/180 project.
• the most current agreements between the City/County of Santa Cruz and the Homeless Services Center of Santa Cruz about the 180/180 project.
• the most current records listing the members, organizations and agencies affiliated with the 180/180 program.

First I made a CPRA request to Homeless Person's Health Project Sr. Health Services Manager Christine Sippl.

Ms. Sippl wrote back:

"There are no incorporation documents for the organization that administers the 180/180 program, as it is a multi-agency campaign and coordinated effort, and is not part of any individual organization. Therefore, there are no governing board or officers.

There are many local organizations and individual volunteers that have been active in the campaign's ongoing effort to survey homeless individuals, identify those who are medically vulnerable according the Vulnerability Index adopted from the national 100,000 Homes Campaign by the 180/180 Campaign and to prioritize these individuals and assist them to access any housing programs for which they may be eligible.

You may also find information available through the 180/180 website to be helpful in your efforts. The URL is: http://www.180santacruz.org"

The 180/180 project fact sheet she provided me is attached as a PDF and is viewable in Google Docs with the following link:

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BxTKPdmfF4X8ZjZxcmpOeG5obEE/edit?pli=1

Then I posed similar questions to County of Santa Cruz Housing Development Manager Julie Conway. Ms. Conway wrote back:

"Dr. Colby, to my knowledge no County of Santa Cruz employees are involved in administration of the 180/180 Campaign. As I understand it, this effort is a distinct private non-profit activity with a range of participants representing public and private organizations as well as volunteers."

Finally I posed similar questions to Santa Cruz City Clerk Administrator Bren Lehr. Santa Cruz City Records Coordinator Nydia Patiño responded:

"The City is not involved in funding the 180/180 project and therefore the City has no disclosable public records that are responsive to your request."

Ms. Patiño's complete response is attached as a PDF. It may be viewed in Google Docs using the link below:

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BxTKPdmfF4X8NVZLakQ1QkZQdlk/edit?pli=1

At the end of the day I ask: who funds and operates the 180/180 project?

It has come to my attention that the 180/180 (Housing First) program is a charitable project operating under the tax–exempt status of the Homeless Services Center of Santa Cruz (as its nonprofit fiscal sponsor).

• Who funds, operates and administers 180/180?
• Does 180/180 receive federal or state grant money?
• Who is accountable for my clients — disabled homeless people using wheelchairs and walkers — not being housed by 180/180?

My CPRA requests raised many questions yet provided few answers. This is not how a high profile community service project should be — it should be open, transparent and accountable to both applicants and the public.

It seems like the City and County of Santa Cruz are deceiving us. They should have answers to my questions. If they can't answer my questions then who will?
§City of Santa Cruz's CPRA request response
by John E. Colby Friday May 3rd, 2013 12:29 AM


Last year I entered into a public discussion with Mayor Don Lane about serving the disabled, or not serving them, by the homeless providers on the 115 Coral Street Campus. This led to a Santa Cruz Community TV form on Sandra Leigh's ISSUES program about disabled homeless people in Santa Cruz.

Once more I asked Don Lane to participate in an open, public discussion about the questions I raised in this article regarding the funding, operation and administration of the 180/180 project. My email request to him, carbon copied to his associates who are involved with 180/180 as well as the media, is attached as a PDF and may be viewed in Google Docs using the link below.

I sincerely hope Done Lane, Phil Kramer, Monica Martinez and Ken Cole will participate in an open, public discussion. Since they have spoken out to support 180/180 in other venues, they seem obligated to make a good faith effort to provide answers to the questions about 180/180 funding, operation and administration which I raised.

I ask Good Times Santa Cruz Editor Greg Archer and Sandra Leigh of Santa Cruz Community TV to bring this discussion before the community. If 180/180 wants community support, they should be willing to make 180/180 open, transparent and accountable to applicants and the public.

Let the discussion begin . . .

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Dan
Friday May 3rd, 2013 3:40 PM
...even if they are using some public funds are not obligated to provide any information beyond what's necessary to retain non profit status.

Our county grand jury, while looking into the state of animal control in Fresno County about a year ago, requested an accounting of how taxpayers dollars that funded contracts that the City of Fresno and the County had with our local SPCA were being spent. The grand jury enquiry had been sparked by a rancorous row between the SPCA and animal rescue groups. The SPCA had closed their board meetings to the public, including representatives of local government.

The SPCA refused to turn over any records, saying that as a private group they weren't required to. A representative went on to say that the organization regarded the contract dollars as a donation, since the cost of providing services actually was more than what the contracts paid. County counsel advised the grand jury that trying to get the records via subpoena would likely be fruitless.

Report back on what you find out about 180/180. I doubt if it's much.
by Robert Norse
Saturday May 4th, 2013 8:40 AM
...it does put some pressure on the organization to come clean and be more transparent about the issues, if it wants broad community support (or prefers not to have people with protest signs at its meetings). The questions being asked are reasonable ones. If they have nothing to hide, what's the problem with revealing the info?

Cautionary note: though this "why object to a search if there's nothing to hide?" argument applies to opaque non-profits and predatory corporations, don't buy it when police officers demand you agree to a search of your person, house, or effects.
by John E. Colby
Saturday May 4th, 2013 2:25 PM
Although potentially a private entity, where 180/180 is getting their money determines to a great extent what their public disclosure requirements are. For now they exist in a kind of quasi governmental netherworld. But using federal and state grant money without performing the necessary grant requirements could get them into a lot of trouble.

This is why transparent, open government, especially for entities funded by the public, is so important.

The jury is still out about 180/180. Since the City and County of Santa Cruz won't provide me clear answers, the status of 180/180 seems murky at best. I suspect there is some corruption involved. Why not just explain clearly what 180/180 is, who runs it, and how it is funded?

Even if 180/180 is in the clear, local government should be answering these questions. Not answering them gives an impression of wrongdoing. Alternatively, why wouldn't 180/180 want to be open, transparent and accountable? Again it gives the impression of wrongdoing.

Don Lane would be wise to take up my invitation.