Jubilee Restoration Inc., in response to a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) investigation into misuse of funds, released records last week showing that it spent federal grant money designated for a homeless youth outreach program to pay employees working for its housing development arm.
Jubilee, Berkeley’s third largest affordable housing developer, released the financial records to city and federal officials to answer charges of nepotism and misallocating federal funds.
HUD and city officials are preparing separate analyses of Jubilee’s response. If either decides Jubilee has proved to be unreliable, it could discontinue funding and effectively shut the organization down. Berkeley would then be at risk of losing the HUD grant for services to homeless youth.
Officials at Jubilee and the city declined to comment for this story. An official city response to Jubilee is expected this week.
Under a $121,633 annual grant from HUD, Jubilee, starting April 1 2002, was supposed to hire three full-time counselors to staff a homeless youth drop-in center. The counselors were funded by HUD specifically to provide assistance with drug and alcohol counseling, AIDS and sexually transmitted disease awareness, finding work and avoiding crime.
Jubilee, however, apparently never filled two of the positions and didn’t fill the third, a youth director, until October 2003.
Accounting reports show that instead the organization used the federal funds to pay for other staff, several of whom appear to have had little or no contact with the operation of the drop-in center. The three biggest recipients were Developmental Director Mia Medcalf, who earned $60,821 from 3,754 hours billed to the homeless youth program, Deputy Director Gordon Choyce II, who received $54,943 from 3,314 hours billed and Housing Program Manager Todd Harvey, who earned $19,780 from 1,633 hours billed.
Choyce II, the son of Jubilee Executive Director Gordon Choyce Sr., heads the organization’s housing development business, with Harvey serving under him.
In a written response to HUD, Jubilee maintained that it had “hired more than three individuals who were working part-time to perform the function of three full-time employees.” Jubilee, however, didn’t specify the names of the individuals assigned to work as counselors or identify the type of work performed by the employees that qualified them to be paid with funds earmarked for the homeless youth program.
Although it was scheduled to begin in April 2001, reports on the drop-in center show little evidence of a functional homeless youth program before the arrival of Youth Director Rebecca Prophet in October of 2003 and significant gaps in service after she left this summer. The drop-in center, called the Jubispot, is supposed to be open three days a week, but since July 5, Jubilee can only document six days when it served local homeless youth.
The homeless youth drop-in center was originally proposed by the Berkeley Ecumenical Strategies Team, a collaboration of local churches, but dissension in the group forced Jubilee to assume control of the program from its inception.
Initially the three churches in south and west Berkeley were to operate complementary services with the grant money, but after the other churches pulled out, Jubilee eventually shifted the program to 2144 Byron Street, a property owned by Jubilee, which is the charitable arm of Berkeley’s Missionary Church of God in Christ, also headed by Gordon Choyce Sr.
Under Choyce Sr., Jubilee has become a player in nonprofit housing development and has also operated social service programs including a recovery program for men recently released from prison.
To help fund Jubilee, the city has given it an annual allotment of $86,000—$26,000 to pay for an outreach worker for the homeless youth program and $60,000 in money transferred from HUD.
The city had frozen this year’s allocation to Jubilee because the organization failed to provide expenditure reports. However, two weeks ago the City Council approved giving the organization $13,000 to help it answer HUD’s charges.›