HOPICS, Katie Hill dispute report on nonprofit client evictions 

One of several properties managed by Norris Jones and Dejon Dixon, co-founders of Housing 1BY1, in Los Angeles on Sept. 28. Adriana Heldiz/CalMatters
One of several properties managed by Norris Jones and Dejon Dixon, co-founders of Housing 1BY1, in Los Angeles on Sept. 28. Adriana Heldiz/CalMatters

CalMatters investigation reports nonprofit’s clients were evicted over nonpayment of rent; HOPICS calls claims ‘categorically false’ 

In response to an investigative article published on Tuesday by CalMatters alleging that hundreds of clients of the nonprofit Homeless Outreach Program Integrated Care System have been evicted, the nonprofit sent a statement to The Signal on Wednesday calling those claims “categorically false.” 

“We are deeply disappointed by the story that ran in CalMatters this morning, which has a categorically false headline saying that hundreds of SSG/HOPICS clients served through our rapid rehousing programs were evicted,” the statement reads. 

SSG is the nonprofit Special Service for Groups, which includes HOPICS as one of its divisions. Katie Hill, formerly a Democratic member of Congress representing the Santa Clarita Valley, serves as the deputy director of operations for HOPICS.  

In the story titled “Hundreds of formerly homeless people get evicted after L.A. nonprofit fails to pay rent on time,” CalMatters reported that HOPICS has received $140 million in government funding over the past three years through its rapid re-housing program.  

The investigation revealed that more than 300 clients were evicted after HOPICS ignored eviction warnings, did not vet the middlemen who rented properties to those clients and had too many clients for too few case managers, CalMatters reported. 

Middlemen for HOPICS are people who rent properties and then sublease rooms for HOPICS clients, according to CalMatters, which added that some of those brokers needed to have rent bills reviewed and approved before being paid. Some of the invoices had questionable charges, HOPICS told CalMatters. 

“We didn’t have the habit of Google searching everybody’s names, and probably that’s a simple fix,” Hill told CalMatters. “This is a lot of money that has gone towards a program that has shown that it can house a lot of people. It’s not perfect in any way, shape, or form, and it’s evolving, and we’re learning as we go.” 

One of the brokers that HOPICS worked with was Donye Mitchell, who previously served time in federal prison after being found guilty of defrauding California’s Employment Development Department, according to CalMatters. Mitchell is being sued by a property owner for $77,000 in back rent, CalMatters reported. 

“As we were working with landlords who sublet to our clients in shared housing, we became aware that some of them were in fact bad actors, not providing us the needed documentation to be compliant with our contracts, charging us for rent when no one was living in the units, failing to pay their own rent to the building owners in the hopes of receiving COVID relief payments, and more,” the HOPICS statement reads.  

“As soon as we learned what they were doing, we immediately notified our funders and sought to remedy the problem, including working as quickly as possible to secure new housing for those impacted,” the statement added. “We are saddened and angered that these actions led to some of our clients being displaced, but want to be clear that our clients themselves were never evicted. In fact, it was the problematic landlords who were evicted by the building owners and did not notify us or the clients in advance, which resulted in the need for immediate relocation. We continue to pursue an investigation with our funder to hold these landlords accountable.” 

CalMatters reported that case managers for HOPICS are supposed to meet with clients once a month, but the investigation revealed that some were handling as many as 60 clients at a time. Neal Glasgow, a former HOPICS case manager who left in 2020, spoke to CalMatters and said that he went from 20 clients initially to 60 clients within 30 days. 

HOPICS officials acknowledged in the CalMatters story that more case managers were needed. 

The HOPICS statement also elaborates on steps that that nonprofit is taking to “ensure we don’t face these same challenges in the future.”  

The statement finishes by saying that the region that HOPICS serves — south Los Angeles, Paramount, Compton and Lynwood — was the only part of L.A. County to see a decrease in homelessness last year. 

Reached by phone on Wednesday, Hill declined to provide additional comment other than what was included in the CalMatters report. The former congresswoman referred all additional questions to the prepared response issued by HOPICS. 

Hill, a Saugus High School graduate, resigned from Congress in 2019 after less than a year in office amid a House Ethics Committee investigation into allegations that she was involved in an inappropriate relationship with a House staff member.  

In addition to Hill, who serves as deputy director overseeing operations, the HOPICS leadership team includes Kelvin Driscoll, a Santa Clarita Valley resident who has twice run for public office, making unsuccessful runs for the state Assembly in March 2020 and the Santa Clarita City Council in November 2020.  

Driscoll is the organization’s deputy director of access, outreach and health services.  

The Signal is an affiliate of CalMatters, a nonpartisan and nonprofit news organization whose mission is “to improve California’s democracy by making its government more transparent and accountable and giving Californians the information they need to understand and engage with that government.” To view the entire CalMatters report on The Signal’s website, go to tinyurl.com/je22mstd. 

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