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LA Homeless Authority under fire

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Surviving while homeless isn't easy. And now the agency that oversees the care of the homeless in Los Angeles is in trouble.

The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority improperly used $1.7 million in federal funds, according to a report in yesterday's Daily News. Oh no, you're probably thinking, the people running things blew all the money on golf trips to Scotland and well-endowed hookers. Well, no. The money was used for homeless services.

LAHSA's head, Mitchell Netburn, explained it to the paper this way:

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The reason we did it ... we had no line of credit, and very often there was a length of time to draw down funds (from the correct funding source). We had very small providers who were going to close their doors and homeless people were going to be on the street. To prevent that from happening, we did this. Ultimately, no, it was not justified.

So the upshot is that the homeless authority is in trouble for getting money to the organizations that needed it, but using the wrong bank account. Co-mingling funds is the issue. Is it really that big a deal?

The Homeless Blog says the problem is of nonprofit (mis)management. That the decision to just move around funds, which the LAHSA had been told they shouldn't do, endangered homeless funding at a much greater level. That's a thoughtul response.

Now the comingling has stopped, and no criminal charges have been found. Is the Daily News trying to spin this as a bigger problem than it is? We think so.

photo by quinet via flickr