Homeless Services Provider Accused of Misspending $1.4M on Booze Cruises, Fast Food

The Bowery Residents' Committee, a New York City homelessness nonprofit organization, spent over $1 million on things like movie tickets, fast food and booze cruises, the state comptroller's office found.

An audit done by the office of New York Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found the BRC had charged the city at least $2,653 for a $36,510 cruise the organization claimed was a "staff training and recruitment" expense, the New York Post reported. The organization declined to disclose to auditors whether the rest of the price had also been charged to the city.

The BRC's website states its mission is to help "restore hope and dignity" to people experiencing homelessness by "offering opportunities for health and self-sufficiency."

The Post said as of 2019, the BRC had $527 million in homeless service contracts, including a contract to operate the Jack Ryan Residence homeless shelter in Manhattan.

The 200-bed shelter is supposed to house single men with mental health service needs, according to the Homeless Shelter Directory.

The audit found that in addition to the cruise costs being attributed to the Jack Ryan Residence contract, the nonprofit claimed reimbursement for $1,500 at Wendy's and $3,482 at AMC Theaters without providing enough documentation and invoices to cover the expenses.

It also found hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent and utility expenses were wrongly attributed to the Jack Ryan Residence contract rather than other BRC programs the Post said are located in the same building.

The comptroller's office said the BRC had charged the city $1.4 million in expenses that were not supported or allowed, filing some of the expenses as "staff appreciation."

In a statement, DiNapoli said the expenses were worrying.

"It's a cause for concern when the non-profit hired to address the growing homeless crisis has so many red flags on the expenses it bills to the city," DiNapoli said. "Charging taxpayers for a booze cruise is inappropriate at best."

An October New York Post report revealed over the past eight years, controversial organizations like the BRC have received about $4.6 billion in city tax money meant to fight the homelessness crisis. This accounts for about 29 percent of the city's $15.8 billion in Department of Homeless Services contracts.

The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness reported as of January 2020, New York had an estimated homeless population of 91,271, far exceeding most other states' numbers. Only California had higher estimated levels at over 161,000.

Out of the 91,271, over 15,000 were family households, over 3,000 were unaccompanied young adults aged 18 to 24 and over 1,200 were veterans.

New York, subway, homeless person
An audit by the New York comptroller's office found that a homelessness nonprofit had used city money on a booze cruise, movie tickets and fast food. Above, a homeless man sleeps on an F train subway on Oct. 12 in Brooklyn, New York. Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images