Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Is Homeless Group's PR Helping Street People?

Do you think Matthew Gerring, the editor of the Coalition on Homelessness' paper the Street Sheet, advises homeless folk to think about what they're doing with their lives in response to a request for information? I don't.

Last week, I asked him about the direct impact of recent public relations moves on the COH's part, including a photo-op at the Powell Street BART station over the agency's sit-lie policies toward homeless folks and pro bono ads featuring homeless people, both of which generated much public discourse. 

Instead of providing answers Matthew sent the following reply, boasting of his agency's dedication (which I don't doubt) and acting as though this accountability activist has no business poking around the COH. I've long gotten over defensive nonprofit workers who believe just because their agency may have a small budget and good people they should be above intense scrutiny.
There's also the detail of Matthew giving the wrong info about COH's tax returns. First, it doesn't take a FOIA request to read them. Second, the amount spent by the sponsor of the social marketing campaign isn't contained in the returns.
The larger questions remained in need of answering by the COH. Has your PR in recent months directly made life better for the homeless? Here's Matthew's letter:

I make roughly minimum wage, part time, providing an income to over 150 people who have no other access to employment. My boss makes the same base salary. And we all just worked a shitlad of unpaid overtime to boost sales of the Street Sheet, give the vendors a raise, and give them some free clothing.

The COH has a budget of $300,000 annually. The City spent many times that on road construction last year,and you're picking a public fight with *us* for not doing more than we already do to help homeless people directly.

You need to stop, take a breath and really think about what you're doing with your life. If you have this much free time, file a public records act request for our tax documents. And while you're doing that, ask yourself if that time might be better spent doing something to directly help homeless people.

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