Harlem-Based Nonprofit Loses Housing Contract

October 18, 2017

Crains NY reports that Harlem-based Heritage Health and Housing transferred seven supportive housing programs with 427 beds to ACMH, another nonprofit, this month after the state Office of Mental Health withdrew funding because of serious concerns about management. Heritage employees said the organization, which provides clients a mix of subsidized housing and social services, has long suffered from a toxic corporate culture. But they said things have gotten even worse since Alvaro Simmons resigned as chief executive last year after a whistle-blower revealed Simmons had lied about having a doctorate degree.

OMH, which paid Heritage $7.8 million between July 2016 and June 2017, echoed employees’ concerns in a letter to Heritage in May. It said the organization suffers from cultural problems, fiscal mismanagement and incompetence on the part of management and the board of directors. “Any one of these areas would be cause for serious concern,” OMH wrote. “Together they can make it impossible for OMH to have any reasonable assurance that Heritage can continue to manage its operations.”

Heritage’s administration did not return multiple requests for comment.

After Simmons left, board member Saundra Alexander served as interim CEO for about a year. She “had no idea what she was doing and ran the place into the ground,” one employee said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Two other employees also told Crain’s they thought she was unqualified for the job.

Dr. Beverly Mosquera left her position as vice president of programs at the nonprofit Comunilife to join Heritage as permanent chief executive Sept. 18. She quit less than two weeks later, leaving Alexander to again take the helm. Mosquera did not comment on her reason for leaving.

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Before he left, Simmons fired the organization’s former chief financial officer. His replacement, Silva Umukoro, was previously president of Citicare, a clinic that filed for bankruptcy in 2013.

Heritage has a history of submitting inaccurate or incomplete accounting records, OMH said.

“The choice of Mr. Umukoro, even on what has been described as an interim basis, fails to demonstrate any commitment to addressing the serious concerns facing Heritage,” OMH wrote in its letter.

Daniel Johansson, chief executive of ACMH, said Heritage has helped smooth the transition of its programs. After interviewing Heritage employees, ACMH has extended offers to more than half of the staff at the housing programs being transferred, he said.

“The conditions of employment are different here,” said Johansson. “We use fewer, higher-skilled workers. Peers are also a big part of our workforce.”

It’s unclear, however, how many Heritage workers are being laid off following the loss of OMH funding. The union 1199 SEIU, which represents Heritage employees, said it has not been able to get information from the organization about the number of employees serving the housing programs that were transferred.

Heritage still runs a health center in Harlem and has ongoing housing contracts with the New York City Department of Homeless Services and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The city did not return a request for comment.

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