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A nonprofit organization linked to A Bridge Housing in Venice (ABH) and the Lincoln Apartment project, set to go before the Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee on Thursday, has been put on notice by the State of California Department of Justice (DOJ).

A California DOJ letter sent to Safe Place for Youth (SPY) states that the organization is delinquent in failing to submit a required annual report to the state’s Registry of Charitable Trusts—a requirement for nonprofits that receive 501(c)(3) status. The result of this violation, the letter adds, is that SPY’s nonprofit status is suspended and may be revoked. This would prohibit SPY from engaging in conduct that includes soliciting or disbursing charitable funds.

Although it’s not uncommon for an organization to be behind in filing tax documents, the timeline of the SPY filing begs the question: Why is  SPY an operator at ABH—a temporary shelter funded by taxpayer money without 990 paperwork filed—and how is it part of a $20 million project that is also partly funded by taxpayers?

SPY  operating as for-profit        

According to Articles of Organization filed in 2015, SPY has been operating under the for-profit organization Friends of Venice Youth, LLC. Papers filed with the state show the organization’s purpose of business is real estate investments. Listed as manager is Alison Hurst, and the founder is Judy Friedman, who sits on the SPY Board as vice-president. A recent filing in 2020 shows no change in status.

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According to SPY’s website and documents obtained for this report, SPY was able to collect nonprofit donations by partnering with Community Partners, a nonprofit organization with annual revenue in 2017 of more than $57 million.

According to 990 paperwork filed in 2018, Community Partners gave SPY $3,054,678 in 2017 to operate.

When filing for its nonprofit status to the IRS, SPY answered [no] when asked if it had ties with another nonprofit or for-profit organization.

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Community Partners also listed several items it lobbied for in its 2018 filing —including A Bridge Housing and METRO projects.

A Bridge Housing Contract?

On May 6, 2019, SPY filed for 501(c)(3) status.  An official letter of exempt status was issued April 23,2020.

Those dates are important because a few months after that filing for a nonprofit status, a motion before the City Council stated that SPY would be a service provider at ABH. This means the organization was brought in as a newly founded nonprofit with no 990 paperwork filed—providing no transparency to taxpayers on how money to date was spent by the organization including operating and program costs as well as staff salaries.

A search for a signed agreement between SPY and the City Council or a subcontract between SPY and People Assisting The Homeless (PATH) came up empty. A phone call to PATH verified there is not contract between the two organizations. An email to Councilmember Mike Bonin’s office came back reading the office is looking for information in regards to the contracts or agreements the city has with SPY. We have not heard back since the original response.

What’s next

On Thursday, SPY and Venice Community Housing representatives will be attending an appeal hearing regarding their Lincoln Apartments project. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles and concerned mothers are appealing the project.

If approved, the $20 million will be supplemented by taxpayer funded money.

Related article:Lincoln Housing Project appeal Thursday: Here’s what that means for Venice

Editors note: We have reached out to SPY for comment in this story and have not heard back.