Monday, November 10, 2008

Who is GCEH and why are they after our Money?

Dateless Post - Background Information on GCEH

An abbreviated history of GCEH [Georgia Coalition to End Homelessness], how the group was originally shaped and how it has become what it is today is posted below this message. I, Lynne Griever, Coordinator for Georgia Task Force for the Homeless, (which is the statewide initiative of the Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless) have compiled this information as background for presenting a position with respect to GCEH, as an organization, and the programs that GCEH is attempting to force on service providers throughout Georgia.

Katheryn Preston, Executive Director of GCEH, announced to the board members that DHR, DCA, the United Way and the Tri-J (an Atlanta C.O.C. Group much like the Savannah Homeless Authority) have all expressed interest in mandating compliance and certification through the GCEH/QEST Program as a prerequisite for agencies applying and receiving grant funding from the sources that they represent. She has since announced that the Tri J has agreed to the GCEH proposal.

Ms. Preston reiterated that certification through this program had been voluntary and free of charge up to this point, but that she had made it clear that GCEH would need to charge for the certifications, from this point forward, in order to recoup costs to GCEH. She stated that she had drafted a projection of cost analysis for services rendered to submit to the various entities that would be using GCEH services. In her evaluation, she stated that the cost would be $1,724.00 to each agency but that she would discount the amount to $1,300 per agency for groups like the Tri-J . who would be forcing significant numbers of agencies to participate.

In the discussion amongst the board members, there seemed to be a general understanding that though neither DHR, DCA, United Way nor Tri J offered to pay the costs, it may be that the fees that GCEH would charge the agencies would become allowable expenses within the grant, if and when the monies were awarded. So, the individual agencies would be allowed to pay GCEH out of funds granted to the agencies that forced them to participate in the QEST Program. Katheryn has also told the board that she feels that GCEH should request a portion of the DCA and C.O.C. Grant money from each region to cover the cost of overseeing the work in each area.

It is my belief that it is important for agencies and individuals throughout all of Georgia need to be informed of the goals and activities of GCEH. As a representative of GA Task Force for the Homeless, I will be working to get this information to the agencies and service providers in an effort to put a stop to the plans that are alleged, by the GCEH Executive Director, to be in the works.

Much of this information has been compiled over a period of years. It would be extremely time consuming to include all of the history and update all of the details. This article is not meant to be a current report of all aspects of the organization. It is meant to bring valuable information to those who are (and who will be) affected by the plans of this organization.

GCEH misrepresents itself and the role that the organization plays in the arena of homeless service provision in Georgia. This organization has betrayed the trust of a number of the regional coalitions that it was formed to nurture. GCEH has survived by touting and claiming oversight of the work that the coalitions and service providers have accomplished. They've done this in order to secure funding as if it would benefit all of the the regional coalitions, knowing that GCEH would keep all of the money to maintain their own existence.

When the funding was originally set aside for GCEH in the DHR Budget it was to support the regional homeless coalitions throughout the state. Those sitting on the GCEH Board were representatives of the regions throughout Georgia. Now, instead of distributing it to the organizations, GCEH claims oversight over all that the service providers and homeless coalitions throughout the state accomplish. They report that the numbers of people who are housed in shelters, fed, assisted in obtaining employment, referred, etc. are their numbers. They are all people that they have helped because they claim that those providing the services are their “partners.” Most of these service providers have never even heard of GCEH.

QEST (GCEH's Quality Enhancement Standards Program) has been designed to impose countless pages of monitoring and regulations on Georgia's service providers. In many cases, these standards are inappropriate for the agencies that are being monitored and regulated and are a duplication of already existing systems (such as health departments, fire departments, IRS & non-profit law) that are already in place with people paid to implement the enforcement. Those seeking funding from grant sources provide documentation of their fiscal responsibility and ability to provide the services for which they are requesting the money. Funding sources are clear about what they need from grantees and grantees agree to provide that which is required of them. Site visits are requested and agreed upon between the grant source and the grantee. Additionally, those who are in a position to approve applications for public funding are compensated for considering the grant applications and for monitoring results. Those who are providing services should not have to use money that is earmarked for service provision to pay GCEH to evaluate them.

Because a small percentage of service providers appear to need improvement, some say that some kind of monitoring system could be beneficial. The QEST Program, as it is set up, would not be a suitable tool. Even if QEST could be modified to be more appropriate for the task, GCEH should not be the organization to implement it. Their blatant disregard for the regulations that they would be imposing on others and the resulting trust issues that their actions have created should disqualify them from any supervisory position.

This information will be updated regularly. If you wish to be informed of updates and/or to be added to the list of organizations that are against the mandatory imposition of the QEST Program on Georgia agencies and service providers, email me @

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE GCEH: Georgia Coalition to End Homelessness (GCEH) was initiated by the Metro-Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless shortly after it's incorporation in 1986. The mission of the Task Force is, and always has been, to end homelessness by means of articulating the causes and conditions of homelessness, with homeless people engaged in the determination of needs, the assessment of resources and the prioritization of policies to close gaps in housing, living wage, employment, income support, health care and education. Advocating for the civil and human rights of people experiencing poverty and homelessness has always been a priority of our work.

From the beginning, it has been understood by the Task Force, that all of these issues need to be addressed when dealing with poverty and homelessness. Additionally, although each area may contain unique challenges, the problems cannot be approached as if each area were isolated from the rest of the state or the country. The Task Force participated with the National Coalition for the Homeless in early Welfare Reform advocacy and monitoring and continues working with NCH and with Habitat for Humanity International.

Many of our programs, such as the toll-free, statewide hotline, our statewide Americorps Force Program, and many other outreach initiatives span the state. Many of the coalitions that are (or were) a part of GCEH were birthed through the efforts of the Task Force, provided with Americorps service support, computers and funds. The Task Force staffed GCEH for between 11 and 12 years.

Together, a collaboration of the coalitions was formed and ran smoothly until it became incorporated and applied for 501c(3) status. The original organization no longer exists. There is no longer support for coalitions or the work that they have done.

There appear to be 3 facets of GCEH that are in various phases of development.

1) THE QEST PROGRAM – (Quality Enhancement Standards Tool) is a tool that was designed to evaluate the service providers across the state. The standards that were drafted are quite extensive and require a great deal of the organizations that would be evaluated. The funds for the development of this program were applied for without the knowledge or consent of the members of the board at the time of the application. Most of the board members (representatives of regional coalitions) that challenged the secretive tactics of the executive committee and executive director (Katheryn Preston) and who may have opposed the QEST Program were forced out of the funding stream and/or off of the board to avoid further confrontation.

2) THE PEN PROGRAM – The Provider Enhancement Network is a program which plugs data gathered from areas throughout the state into a database. Initially, some of the regional coalitions were offered a small amount of money (a portion of what had previously been distributed amongst them annually) to gather data and numbers from all of the service providers within their region and pass it on to GCEH. GCEH staff gathered the information in the regions that had opposed the group that took over GCEH and kept the money that would have been offered in those regions. GCEH continued to claim (to DHR) that the money DHR provided was still being used in the development of all of the regions in Georgia. They just didn't mention that they were paying themselves to make it look like the work was being done statewide.

Later, GCEH began demanding that the gatherers of the information include agencies like CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), Fire Stations, DFACS Offices, Libraries, school departments, police stations, etc. All of these entities are now claimed to be part of the 1,100 “participating partners.” Of course, most of them have nothing to do with homelessness or the
provision of services to homeless families or individuals and most have never even heard of GCEH. Though GCEH touts these numbers in attempts to bring in funding on websites all over the Internet, well over 80% have nothing to do with homeless services provision and are not connected to GCEH in any way.

3) COMBINING THE ANNUAL CONFERENCE WITH AN OVERVIEW AND PLAN FOR THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PROPOSED STATE PLAN TO END HOMELESSNESS - GCEH claims that they brought homeless service providers from all over the state to reach agreement with respect to a plan to end homelessness in 10 years. One of the problems with this claim is that the people that were brought together to participate in these discussions were not representatives of the regional coalitions and in many instances had nothing to do with homeless services. Most of the attendees of these conferences are from Atlanta and Savannah (if held in Savannah). Many of the regional coalitions are now without staff because the money that supported their work has be taken by GCEH. GCEH, as an organization, has paid a high price for the money. They have lost the trust of those who would need to support them. An organization without the trust and support of those who they claim to represent has no credibility. Now that nearly all of the money goes to GCEH, it is possible to put on an impressive event where claims of accomplishment are made to impress people who have no way of knowing that the claims are false. Most of us have been quiet while GCEH squandered the money meant for regional support and statewide collaboration. We were too busy doing the work to spend any more time fighting this organization. Our hope has been that it would be obvious to the funders that they are not doing the work. We didn't think that they would be able to convince funders to continue to support their existence and that if we left it alone... they would just go away when they ran out of money. We can't, however, sit by while GCEH talks their way into a highly paid statewide monitoring agency.


* The original founders of Georgia Coalition to End Homelessness were forced off of the board, without a vote from the board of directors, in order to achieve the goals of a few folks who wanted to change the direction and the organization and take the funding from the coalitions. It was feared that this move could not be achieved if the Task Force was still on the board.

*Other coalitions were forced out by withholding their funding.

*Coalitions who would go along with the plans to take over the organization were fully funded and placed in positions of authority.

*GCEH has betrayed the trust of a number of the local coalitions that it was formed to nurture. GCEH has survived by touting and claiming oversight of the work that the coalitions and service providers have accomplished in order to secure funding and then kept it for their own administrative costs.

*GCEH has violated the standards proposed to impose on other organizations, as a matter of course. GCEH regularly ignores the basic requirements of a 501c(3) organization, including multiple violations of the sunshine law.

No comments: