Food waste at the Tillary Street Women’s Shelter in downtown Brooklyn, April 6, 2022. Photo courtesy NYC Department of Social Services
An audit by the New York State Comptroller’s (OSC) office of a city contractor providing care at the Tillary Street Women’s Shelter in downtown Brooklyn found that the company misreported millions of public funds, including subsistence costs.
The Institute for Community Living Inc. (ICL) – a non-profit organization that receives government funding in exchange for providing temporary housing, housing referrals, case management, referral services, and on-site mental and physical health services to women with mental illness and substance use disorders Tillary – had $2,376,462 in reported expenses that did not meet the Tillary contract or DHS and city government oversight requirements, representing 9.7 percent of total expenses for the three fiscal years ended June 30, 2019. In 2019, ICL had four contracts with DHS valued at $93.8 million.
ICL awarded Tillary expenses for security and prepared meals ($3,162,646 and $1,169,564 respectively). In the three fiscal years prior to 2019, more than $92,492 worth of meals went unbilled. Specifically, over 267,000 meals were served by ICL, but logs accounted for only 231,920 meals purchased. 35,920 meals are not included. The OSC requested logs of daily food consumption and only received 21 of the 36 requested months from October 2017 to June 2019. During that time, an estimated 33 percent of meals purchased by ICL were wasted. ICL did not adjust the amount of meals to better suit her needs, although her contract allowed it.
On April 6, 2022, during an unannounced visit to the shelter, the OSC observed garbage bags full of unopened meals despite an April 9 “Use By” date.
ICL’s website states that in 2020, “96% of our behavioral health clients believed they had the power to make changes to improve their physical and mental health. The vast majority said they were able to deal with day-to-day issues more effectively and had more control over their lives.”
For its services at Tillary, ICL had signed an original $15.2 million contract with the Department of Homeless Services and renewed an amended version of that contract for $35.6 million. From fiscal 2015-16 through fiscal 2019-20, the total cost of the contract was approximately $50.8 million.
ICL claimed $24.5 million in eligible expenses during this period. To qualify for a refund, ICL must submit documentation: receipts, invoices, and proof of payment. The documents submitted did not comply with the Fiscal Manual or Cost Manual from DHS or the NYC Department of Health and Human Services, which “provides homeless service providers guidance on the eligibility of reimbursable expenses, the documentation needed to cover those expenses, and the cost allocation requirements for expenses related to multiple contacts” according to State Comptroller Audit. The Tillary contract states that the contractor must provide written estimates for goods, supplies or services for amounts in excess of $25,000 within one year.
$852,361 in compensation expenses — $696,572 in salaries and $155,789 in related benefits — on ICL’s payroll are “not adequately supported” and are non-refundable due to a lack of proper time and attendance records. ICL said the agency lost attendance records in a cyberattack in 2019, which DHS confirmed. The employees concerned worked 29,477 hours. $157,337 and $32,758 in fringe benefits and compensation expense related to personal services were also determined to be ineligible for reimbursement. The over-allocation of funds violates ICL’s contract with Tillary and other improperly documented expenses such as: ICL also reported $7,254 in the period prior to fiscal 2019. ICL’s financial statements for the 2018-19 financial year are overdue.
According to the OSC, DHS spends a total of $2.2 billion annually to provide transitional housing and housing services for homeless families.