Homeless care provider responds to City Paper story from February

I am writing this letter in response to the writer of an article, by Ed Erickson Jr., in City Paper, dated, February 22, 2016, in which Mr. Erickson quoted disgruntled, former residents of my organization, “Belvedere Assisted Living,” claiming we had mistreated them.

When in the course of catastrophic human events, it becomes necessary for those who have weathered the storm to stand up for those who have been traumatized, and bear the scars of those turbulent times, to the degree that they are rendered homeless, hopeless, and often lost in the maze to recovery.

We don’t deny there were times when we could not avoid certain situations, but at no time have we ever purposely disrespected those who came to us for assistance. In fact, many of them had no funds at all, and we did not turn them away. We had one purpose in mind: to get them off the street, into a safe environment, where they would be fed and sheltered and get on level ground to redirect their lives.

Our systems have become fodder for those who have their own methods of operation and disagree with our methods. We have learned from experience that the people we help must take equity in their recovery. So instead of giving them free services, we ask that them to share monies they receive from Social Security or disability to pay their rent, help them purchase bus passes for transportation, and to assure they receive two square meals a day.

It should be noted that “Belvedere Assisted Living” (BAL) and “Real Care Providers Network” (RCPN) are two different entities, but your article never mentioned these facts. In fact you stated that RCP received $500,000, which is not true. BAL has been in existence since 2000, providing long term assisted living to those who are in need of a safe and dependable environment, where their daily living is co-managed, as they face major transitions in their life spans. The elderly are the main customers of BAL, and in fact, they help us make RCP function because we use any profit to undergird RCPN.

You also stated that we evict people, which is not true. We have policies and standard of operation, and those who do not follow those rules are asked to relocate because of the need for order, and consistent programs to effectively carry out our mission. Yet, due to the sometimes fragile makeup of those who reside together in our company housing, some with mental issues, some with alcohol and drug dependency, can prove to be volatile situations, which require tact, diplomacy, experience, and patience.

BAL nor RCPN receives no help or revenue from the city or state, in fact, for many years I have carried the financial load all by myself, to the extent that I live in the shelters with the residents. So my sacrifice to help those who are less fortunate than me is from my heart, with no avarice or personal gain.

Your article mentioned that there are property owners, from whom I sublet their properties, who say I owe them money. While that is true in some instances, I cannot pay what I don’t have. A written agreement with some people is not worth the paper it’s written on, and because of drug and alcohol addictions, many of our clients let their addictions cloud their better judgments, like the need for a roof over their heads, yet we are left to honor the commitments we made to the landlords. Therefore, I have constructed repayment schedules with those that I committed to pay, and I regret any untimely payments or inconveniences.

This brings me to my last point, in reference to the accusation that my company takes EBT cards from our clients. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Because so many of our clients are dealing with long term substance abuse and sometimes mental issues, we ask them to let us keep their cards, while they are in our care, because an EBT card can be used as a quick case mechanism. The owners can sell the funds for cash, to appropriate cash purchases to buy drugs and alcohol, which leaves them at end the month with no way to buy food. When we manage the EBT cards for them, at least we know food will not be an issue.

I am not some religious zealot, who asks WHAT WOULD JESUS DO in a vacuum, but I am a believer in the Great Commandments of Jesus the Christ, which states, “We should love the Lord our God with all of our heart, mind and body, and we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves.”

This is who I am, and the mission of my assisted living programs, and although it has not been easy to provide these services to the less fortunate, I am more determined, more than ever to honor my commitment to help those who have fallen by the wayside, because the fear of living for nothing has strangled their will to try.

“We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes and {hearts} to remedy this kind of poverty.”

Christina Flowers, Founder, CEO and Director of “Belvedere Assisted Living” and “Real Care Providers Network” LLC.

 

City Paper's response: We stated, based on the federal tax forms of Belvedere Assisted Living, confirmed with a face-to-face interview with Ms. Flowers and Ms. Trueheart, that BAL AKA Flowers' organization, has an annual budget/annual income of approximately $500,000. RCPN was not then—and is apparently still not now—a registered corporation or charity.

We stated as well that BAL/RCPN (aka Flowers' organization) received city money totaling just over $250,000—a grant that Trueheart wrote—through an arrangement the city made with New Vision House of Hope, which was to act as a bursar in the matter. Everyone we spoke to—from City Council president Jack Young to Flowers herself (and Trueheart), told us that this was city money funding Flowers' program through New Vision, which we were told has the acceptable fiscal and accounting policies in place. This was the second CP story detailing this arrangement. It followed this one (Dec. 1) about which we heard no similar complaint.

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