Homeless Shelter Accused Of Mishandling Public Money

Person lying on cardboard.

SAN FRANCISCO—A San Francisco non-profit dedicated to helping eradicate homelessness is accused of mishandling public money, housing and shelters for the population that they serve. 

The City’s Controller’s Office released an audit on Thursday, November 17, titled “The City Must Determine Whether United Council of Human Services Should Continue Providing Services to San Francisco Residents Despite Continuing Noncompliance With City Agreements.” In the audit the Controller’s office revealed that UCHS had not properly vetted tenants or ensured that they were prioritized appropriately through the city’s coordinated entry system for homeless individuals. 

United Council of Human Services.

The City’s auditors examined the organization’s clients and found that 83% were not properly prioritized for housing placement. The nonprofit also did not retain documentation for its tenants. 

San Francisco’s FBI office and the District Attorney’s White Collar Crime Division wrote in a letter that housing was “illegally sold to some residents.” 

The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, which was the entity that requested the controller’s review, expressed that they were concerned that UCHS has used rent from clients to cover ineligible expenses. 

“Although the individuals responsible may not have been UCHS employees, it appears that UCHS was aware of the criminal activity and did not initially report it to the funding department,” the letter read.

The CEO of UCHS, Gwendolyn Westbrook, 67, gave portions of its allotted shelter spaces to house family, friends and employees. An interview with The San Francisco Standard confirms that these allegations were true. Westbrook told the San Francisco Standard that her family members and employees were previously homeless and had the proper documentation to prove it. She also stated that the City Controller’s Office is lying and that she welcomes an investigation. UCHS housed about 20 of it’s own employees.   

Earlier this year, the City of San Francisco had the Bayview Hunters Point Foundation work as a fiscal sponsor to help UCHS with its financial management. Westbrook told the Standard that BHPF is responsible for the mismanagement of money.

UCHS had a similar audit conducted back in 2017 that raised similar concerns. The non-profit is based out of the Bayview area which is known to be one of San Francisco’s poorest neighborhoods.