Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Editorial: ABQ taxpayers are accountable for homelessness benefits

At a time when the city is trying to get a grip on homelessness, it’s worrying that one of its largest homeless service contractors is being accused of ripping off taxpayers.

A report released last week by the Albuquerque Office of Inspector General claims that HopeWorks, which has a whopping $ 9.6 million in city contracts, “defrauded” the city of $ 155,586.25 by helping the city and Medicaid was billed twice. The OIG report, independent of the mayor and city council, also states that HopeWorks billed Medicaid an additional $ 15,653.58 for services it was unable to secure in its ledger.

The OIG recommends that HopeWorks return the city immediately to the full $ 155,586.25 in order to meet contract and state requirements. But HopeWorks hadn’t paid the city back anything until January 12th.

The nonprofit, day care center, dining room, and behavioral health services organization at 1201 3rd St. NW claims that the OIG’s findings were “based on a misunderstanding” of how the cost of the assisted outpatient program is billed. HopeWorks also claims the city initiated the audit and OIG investigation in retaliation for a June 10 guest column in the Journal criticizing the city’s purchase of the old Lovelace Hospital in Gibson SE for an animal shelter.

However, the city canceled a three-year outpatient assisted treatment contract with HopeWorks on June 1, so the retribution argument comes days too late and the dollars still have to add up.

The OIG report finds that due to the lack of internal controls, HopeWorks leaves the city vulnerable to fraud, waste and abuse due to inaccurate reporting of contract income and expenses. Red flags had surfaced after HopeWorks contacted the city about a growing deficit in the operation of the assisted outpatient care program. HopeWorks wanted a more restrictive cap on the number of cases assigned to each case manager, so the city asked for tax documentation. HopeWorks couldn’t provide them; enter the independent exam long before the guest column, which began in September. That’s called due diligence, and that’s what we expect from those who spend millions of dollars in taxpayers’ money.

Founded in 1985, HopeWorks has done well in the community for decades, growing up to become one of the largest nonprofit homeless service providers in the state, with plans for a $ 9 million new campus building. The city signed HopeWorks because of its extensive experience working with people with homelessness, addiction and mental illness.

An estimated 1,560 homeless people were lost in Albuquerque this winter, and the over 11,000 people and families living in Albuquerque in each, according to a point-in-time survey from 2021 that officials acknowledge to be outnumbered Cases of becoming homeless will be given a year, according to the National Coalition to End Homelessness.

HopeWorks owes it to its current and potential customers, as well as the city’s taxpayers, to get its paperwork in order and justify specific program spending. Albuquerque needs solutions to the homelessness crisis and cannot skip a six-figure expense.

This editorial first appeared in the . It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than that of the authors.

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