In January 2009, we wrote about the Melville Charitable Trust, and then in February the program director responded. It is a year later and I still hear the same advertisement from the Melville Charitable Foundation on NPR on a regular basis. They still have not found an end to homelessness, and from their website they are no closer. It is not complicated, and for way less than the money that they gave to NPR I could have provided a solution by now. I guess maybe I am just wondering why they don't change their underwriting announcement. I can't be the only one who hears that every week and wonders, "how long does it take to come up with a solution to homelessness?"
Recently, an advocate from California, Art Vanden, posted a rant on our site about Melville and advocacy groups. Here is the comment that he submitted.
One of the most vile of scams is that so many "homeless advocacy" groups are in it for their salaries and not much more. There was a "charity" in Fresno advertising nationally as "motor homes for the homeless" an advocacy group who's plea for donations of higher end motor homes to help the homeless... Well in reality they were selling motor homes to to lots around southern CA to advocate for homeless people's need for housing (printing brochures) Their president claimed a vast salary and they had a large staff "no homeless of course" to shift the donated motor homes into their pocket and of course "help the homeless"I do not understand the relationship that Mr. Vanden makes between a foundation that gives money to national groups like NPR along with Connecticut groups and advocacy groups that try to push public policy issues locally. I think he misunderstands advocacy groups.
I've volunteered some advertising on my website because by the sound of their mission statement, they sounded like they were really doing something beautiful and needed.
So, upon some complaints from members on the site I did some further investigation (I volunteered) in the Fresno area... It would seem that their entire budget went to "advocacy"??? Hmmm??? they obviously were doing damn good, big office, plenty of staff... All to produce a flyer/advertisement describing the need for the homeless to have homes...
POVERTY PIMPS... ALL "advocacy groups are indeed POVERTY PIMPS.
Just look at the facts of how much the Melville Trust donates to NPR for their name recognition... Now, look at how much they have given to actually "print their flyers" and 700k over the past ten years to a Connecticut educational program is a spit in the face of all homeless people.
Now let's see Melville trust disclose their hierarchys (sic) salaries, I would bet it is a lot more than they helped the homeless with.
As a representative of an advocacy group, I have to say that it is true that most of the cost of running our organization is salaries and rent but we have a role in the community. We are not a charity that provides food or housing or a shelter bed. If the United Way organizations that serve people were doing public policy, community organizing and advocacy along with their services, there would be no need for us. We do not provide direct service to individuals facing the emergency of homelessness. We support and respect those throwing life preservers to individual's struggling with poverty. Advocates wade up stream and figure out why people are falling into the water and try to build retaining walls. We push our Mayor and County Commissioners to keep homelessness in mind with every decision. NEOCH is looking for large scale housing solutions or the development of jobs programs or universal access to health care. Without advocacy groups there would not be money for family shelters and all the shelters would be mats in basements, homeless people would not be able to vote, there would be far fewer affordable housing units in Cleveland, and all health care would be provided through the hospitals among other changes.
I agree that all directors of charities should not have excessive salaries. I agree that all charities should have strong community oversight that can move a neighborhood, city, county, or state toward some tangible goals. But, I think that community organizing and facilitating discussion among a group is an important activity. Assisting lower income people to speak collectively is a useful function and facilitating meeting that allow homeless people to speak directly to politicians is a critical function. Just providing a meal and a shelter bed is important, but it does not solve the problems associated with homelessness, the lack of jobs or the lack of housing. Please take a second look at Advocacy organizations, Mr. Vanden.
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