Colorado

Local Homeless Advocacy Organization Faces Off Against Denver Camping Ban

Policy

The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless [CCFH] is a state based charity with a dual mission: to provide housing for the homeless as well as offer services such as medical help and food distribution. CCFH, along with the Occupy Wall Street movement in Denver and the American Civil Liberties Union, was also the group to spearhead opposition to the Denver city council’s recently passed resolution effectively banning camping within the city limits. While the goal of CCFH is stated as entirely focused on the needs of the homeless, it would appear from 990 filings and the group’s annual reports that money and mission are not lining up.

John Parvensky, the president of the charity, is quoted as an expert on the homeless in a letter published by Occupy Denver last month. The letter argues against the camping ban, using Parvensky to claim a severe lack of financial resources from the government in support of the local homeless. Parvensky is also quoted in the Denver Post claiming thousands of mentally ill and homeless will go without needed services “because we [CCFH] don’t have the ability to provide those services.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published a news release boasting that Colorado would receive a whopping $22 million in ObamaCare grants. Colorado Coalition for the Homeless was “awarded” just under 25%, or $5 million, of the total Obamacare grants for the entire state of Colorado. Grants that should assist the CCFH in providing services to those they claim to not have the ability to assist.

The CCFH tax records has consistently found the ability pay Parvensky and his employees more than two times the median Colorado income. Since appearing on their 990 filings back in 2006, Parvensky has steadily pulled in a six figure income that has gradually grown to nearly $200,000 in 2010. The other six employees of the Coalition listed publicly of the forms have also cashed over $100,000 annual salary checks. Many of them are not too far behind Parvensky’s figures as the total payout to these few positions totaled to over one million dollars in 2010 alone.

Oddly enough, 2010 was also the year that the Coalition had to shut down their mobile clinic to the poor and homeless in the city, citing a lack of government financial support. The clinic did find its way onto the streets again over a year later, but only after another $30 million in state and federal government grants was given to the private charity. 

As a registered tax exempt non-profit organization, the Coalition is required to publish an annual report detailing the group’s activity throughout the year. A cursory view of 2010’s glossy report (the last one filed) reveals a mere %15 of this charity’s revenues coming from individual donors and private foundations. $35.5 million in government grants and monies accounted for 66.8% of their total revenue.

“We think it is unfortunate that Denver’s City Council moved forward with this punitive measure…” Parvenksy wrote in the CCFH press release after the passage of the camping ban. Parvensky went on to note that the debate had “illuminated many struggles faced by our homeless neighbors including lack of mental health services and inadequate shelter.”

The most recent numbers show chronic homelessness in Denver ranging from 200-400, a reduction of 81% since 2005. 51% of homeless in Denver report housing costs and job loss as reasons for their homelessness. A recent report by the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative found the total homeless population in Denver to be 5271.

Follow Kyle Forti on Twitter: @kyleforti

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