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Former staff: Clients of Colorado Coalition of the Homeless are not getting the care they need

Insiders are raising safety, ethics, and quality of living concerns about the Denver-based nonprofit.
Colorado Coalition for the Homeless
Posted at 10:01 PM, May 11, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-12 12:18:45-04

DENVER — Insiders are sounding the alarm about a Denver-based nonprofit they say is not living up to its mission.

The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, or CCH, is one of the largest providers of housing for the unhoused in the state. The organization houses more than 2,000 people each night in more than 20 locations. The latest fiscal report confirms CCH brought in nearly $127 million in revenue in 2022. But former employees want city and state leaders to understand the untold story about the nonprofit, including safety, ethics, and quality of care concerns.

"The money that's getting funneled into the coalition isn't helping the clients," said Janie Sisson, former employee of the coalition said.

Sisson told Denver7 Investigates that her decision to quit was due to the "complicity" she felt after four months working at the organization.

"There were days when my coworkers would be crying, I would cry driving to work, I'd cry driving home. It keeps us up at night," Sisson said.

Alex Pacheco agrees. She is another former employee who worked at the coalition for nine months. She quit for similar reasons.

"I don't know how you can go to sleep at night putting people in units that are infested with bedbugs, roaches, and mice and still feel like you're doing a good thing at the end of the day because from your perspective, it's better than being on the street," she said.

Billy Jean is a member of Denver's unhoused population. She told Denver7 Investigates that the streets are safer than shelter life.

"They're bad, they're rough," she said. "There's more love out here on the streets than there is in my own home."

Because of that, Billy Jean decided to pitch a tent, choosing the freedoms and daily challenges that come with living on a street corner over the indoor living quarters of government-sponsored housing.

Leslie Murray, a disabled man with no legs, made his decision to live inside an apartment provided by CCH.

At a glance, the nonprofit's Facebook page celebrates "40 years of creating lasting solutions to homelessness through homes, health, and hope." However, according to Murray, CCH has proven they do not care about their clients.

"I don't understand why they put me on the second floor. They know I don't have any legs and they put me in this building," he said. "I know they don't care about me and no, I don't feel safe here."

Murray's concerns intensified after learning he was placed on the second floor of a building where the elevator was regularly out of service.

"For me, it's a death sentence if they have a fire," Murray said.

Both Sisson and Pacheco confirmed instances of what they call unethical living standards when it came to Murray's placement.

"There was one occasion where a case manager had to carry this man's wheelchair while he used what was left of his legs to hobble down the stairs," Pacheco said.

"It sucks having to crawl," Murray said when describing the incident. "Humiliated. You know you don't feel like a human."

Sisson and Pacheco also brought concerns surrounding employee safety and staffing to light.

"There are actual reports of employees being attacked and harmed and there's no policy change, there's no procedural change," Sisson said.

"We were regularly having clients being evicted or under threat of eviction from their apartments because the department was so understaffed and disorganized that we couldn't keep it together to make sure people's rents were being paid," Pacheco said.

Denver7 Investigates asked both Sisson and Pacheco how CCH leadership would react to their claims.

"I think the leadership at CCH is going to avoid the truth at all costs, unfortunately, because the lies are the only thing that have been protecting them up until now," Sisson said.

Denver7 Investigates compiled a 14-minute video of concerns from former staff and clients for CCH CEO Britta Fisher. Both Sisson and Pacheco said the CEO was already made aware of those issues.

Former staff: Clients of Colorado Coalition of the Homeless are not getting the care they need

"I also know that CEO Britta Fisher is aware of our concerns and the reason I know that is because I sat directly in front of her as my entire department voiced their concerns to her in a meeting," Sisson said. "Shame on you."

We asked the CEO what she thought about the issues raised.

"I'm very distressed that client doesn't feel cared for," Fisher said. "It concerns me. I'm the CEO of an organization that honors the inherent dignity of each person. And to hear that people felt that hadn't happened or isn't happening... that's hard and that hurts my heart."

Fisher also pledged to share the concerns brought to light by Denver7 Investigates with her senior leadership and address Murray's housing situation.

"I will absolutely be following up to ensure that every accommodation has been made that we can make," Fisher said. "I'm not going to tell them it's going to be 100% better tomorrow. But working together, I absolutely believe that we can continue to make this organization better because it's already doing great things."

Since the interview, CCH has addressed safety concerns raised in our report, adding additional safety staffing and a new reporting system for incidents.

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