The United Homeless Organization

Number 2 in my multipart series, Things for Suckers.

Anyone that gives money to the the United Homeless Organization, or UHO, is an utter chump. I’ve always suspected that it was just a scam run by a bunch of homeless people to get you to give them money. Today, I did some surfing around on the internet and found out I was right.

Basically it works like this: A suspicious individual sits at a table with a water jug with the letters “UHO” on it and begs you to spare a dime, a nickle, EVEN A PENNY! to help the homeless.

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So you reach for some loose change, but what you should realize unless you are a complete sucker is that any fool with a water jug could do this, and that your money is not going to help the homeless, but this homeless guy right here. If you really want to help the homeless, try donating to a reputable charity. According to the NY Post, (alt link) 80% of the money goes directly to the guy who is aggressively bellowing at you. Its nothing more than organized panhandling. You have to feel sorry for the homeless people involved in this scam, but the shame goes to the UHO itself, for profiting off of the panhandling of its “employees.” It is a complete racket, and smacks of a pyramid scheme. Someone should investigate their finances.

21 Responses to “The United Homeless Organization”


  • You are absolutely correct. UHO is a scam. You can obtain their IRS forms from http://www.guidestar.org. They take in revenues in the form of fees, essentially, for letting panhandlers use their name, and they have expenses, i.e., Stephen Riley’s vehicles, Stephen Riley’s computer, Stephen Riley’s phone, etc. But they don’t have any program expenses because…they don’t have any programs! Kind of odd for a charity, don’t you think?

  • UHO is not a scam… I have worked in the program.. It provides emergency monies for people living on the streets and for formerly homeless person to advocate for the homeless. Unless you have been homeless yourself it is very hard to grasp the concept. So as a homeless person I feel great when I am able to buy something to eat, take a shower, buy my personals soap, toothpaste and clean undergarments And also talk to and help another homeless person. It is more than money in a waterjug its outreach to those who can’t help themselves.
    . this program has provided me with valuable information to better myself. There are thousads of homelss persons that dont receive traditional social services. This program

  • yah, so basically you are agreeing that you as a worker keep most of the money and the UHO actually gets a tiny percentage (which probably covers only overhead (i.e. salaries of people who don’t do shit)) which little of, if any, goes to homeless people. The key is that you’re not helping “the homeless,” just the homeless guy yelling on the street. its a deceptive practice, and therefore a scam.

    UHO is a total scam.

  • I always suspected UHO of being a scam. Thanks for confirming it. My first hints were when the website didn’t work and the poor quality/consistency of the set up they have on the streets.

  • Razorweb, I can’t imagine a better way to help “the homeless” ( I quote in reference to your differentiation between “the homeless” and “this homeless guy”) than to directly provide them with aid. Care to share your ideas? How much greater of an impact do you think making the same sized donation (let’s say 50 cents or a buck) to a more centralized, reputable in the eyes of the NY Post charity would have? Why do you believe it is wrong for those who run the UHO to profit off of a system that as you said allows the homeless or formerly so to panhandle under the banner of the UHO? Thanks for answering my questions.

  • What about the guy on the 4 train. I have sandwiches and food for the homeless. He gives a big speach announcing he is from UHO. The food is in a plastic bodega bag? Should;nt the food be in a cooler. Is is healping the homeless or is he giving them food poisioning? Plus is the money actually for the UHO or himself?

    I would love to follow this guy to see where he spends the money.

  • Matt,
    The problem is that this organization does not appear to really help the homeless community as a whole. If most of the people who looked into this are right, the “United Homeless Organization” seems to consist of one main member (Stephen Riley, apparently) and a bunch of homeless/once homeless people who panhandle for him in exchange for payment of a $15 fee per shift.

    So he’s using the claim “helping the homeless” disingenuously. It implies assistance to “the homeless”, but in reality, it only helps THAT particular homeless person. It’s deceitful, and I feel pissed, because I donated to them in the past.

    Real homeless organizations like “The Bowery Mission” and “The Coalition for the Homeless” offer programs, food, clothing, etc. I don’t see any services from the UHO other than a fee splitting agreement and a few free sandwiches they generally carry around.

  • It’s a shame that this “organization” doesn’t help the homeless community as a whole. It really is a good idea. It’s basically the same thing as stretching out your hat or your hand for some change. Most people would rather give to the homeless as a “whole” rather than on every corner.
    Personally, I don’t give my money to homeless people only because you can never be too sure of where it goes. I have however, lots of times, given food to the homeless, I even asked a homeless teen to accompany me for lunch one afternoon. UHO would be a beautiful idea if it was legitimized.

  • I’ve been homeless for over 18 months. My story is not what most people suspect of a homeless individual. I entered the shelter system in Feb of 2007 and I will tell you this…UHO is a LOT more “legitimate” than most of what passes for nonprofits with mandates to help the homeless.

    Yes, the money you give, minus 15 bucks goes directly to the homeless individual involved. Some people see this as a problem and a scam. Truth be told, the scam is the one perpertrated by the so called social services whether they be government run or non profits that are in cahoots. How much of your money goes to feeding a beauracracy that ends up helping so few? The bottom line people is that the system feeds itself. It has no reason to eradicate homelessness because if it did it there wouldn’t be any need for the system, hence thousands of people would be out of jobs.

    And that’s just some of what I’ve seen. HelpUSA, one of the socalled legitimate non profits (www.helpusa.org) is a joke. Your hair would stand up on end if I told you the way homeless people are treated in their shelters. There is so little honesty, so little respect. It literally makes me sick the way they treat their “clients”. Housing? If you call three quarter houses where there are literally 8 men in a room (and the landlord getting 215 a month EACH from public assistance) housing then ok.

    Ok, done ranting. But if you want to ask more, feel free to email me at coachharold@gmail.com and I’d LOVE to tell you more.

    Hal

  • Yeah I used to work at the UHO and I was fired because I was sexually harassed by Chris Coon a manager at the organization and Stepphen Riley did not investigate it because he did not want to loose any money, so he fired me. Without any cause except for the one that I was raising some issues that were extremely tabooof him as a leader of homeless people. Like him employing criminals in order to do crime for him.

  • Let me tell you my story and then you can answer me how the UHO is or is not a scam.

    I’m a disabled american citizen. I have ten (yes ten) vertibre that are screwed up in one form or another( pinched nerves, herniations, etc) I also have advanced peripheral neuropathy and mylopathy. Bottom line, I cant stand/walk/sit for any serious amount of time without being in severe agony. Reason i’m saying all of this is that i have been involved with Human resources administration and Department of Homeless services for nearly four years since my symptoms became severe. They have done next to nothing to aid me.
    In fact, I have had to continually press fair hearings with the state of new york OVER them to get help. (and im still fighting now).

    Point im making here is that the UHO gives people whom have fallen on hard times a way to survive until a more pernament situation can be found. Quite frankly i would not be alive today to type this if it wasn’t for their aid to me…….

  • I did the UHO … asking for change thing I’m homeless and I had nothing left, it’s the only place to go when there’s nothing left. SUPPORT UHO!!!

  • Great! All that money down the drain.

  • My name is Josh, and I myself, became homeless in July of 2004.I was in Brooklyn at the time, I couldn’t afford my rent and I just filled a backpack and went to times square. I eventually discovered there was only way to get into a shelter, and that was to get a referral from Bellview. I get school bussed to a place called Charles H. Gay men’s Shelter. I freaked out because I’m not gay, and there were transvestites hanging outside as we arrived. There were over 1000 men in this one shelter and they weren’t staffed to handle the chaos. I once went five days without a bed, because I went to work during the times beds were assigned.I worked for UHO and it is not a scam.Rodney helped me out a lot and I wouldn’t have survived without the spots he gave me in times square.The employees are allowed to legally ask for money.What is wrong with that? If we make 30 dollars, after buying a nice meal and train fare you aren’t left with much. Try building a life out of that without going insane. 90 dollars a week doesn’t add up too fast. I actually got approached to work for a comedy club, while working at a table in front of McDonalds.Within two months I had gotten a place near work. I saw a lot of ugly,scary,things and I don’t wish that upon anyone. Next time you see a UHO table, offer them a sandwich,or a coffee, maybe even a metro card, or a cigarette, you don’t know what they might be going through

  • I see the “outreach” worker on the 4 train almost everyday and I know it’s a scam. There were two seperate occasions that let me know that this was the case. The first time I was on the train and there were some well dressed gentlemen and a woman with them. The lady had a look of disdain on her face and I overheard her say that the UHO was a scam. I couldn’t help but ask her and she told me that she worked for the MTA and knows that the organization doesn’t exist in any capacity besides the street level. She also noted that it is illegal to panhandle on the subway, which leads directly to my next story. Another day, the aforementioned came on and was about to recite his script when he locked eyes with a police officer on the train. Upon doing so, he promptly became quiet and sat down next to another patron. UHO SCAM Nuff Said

  • I agree with both HAL and Josh Marino. Irregardless if it is a scam or not, one thing we know for certain is that these people are homeless and need a helping hand from someone who truly cares.

    I believe that though the poor we will always have with us,it is a great opportunity to be selfless and give to those less fortunate. You truly never know if that could be you one day. We can’t wait or blame the government when each of us can do our part. Next, time I’m in NYC instead of buying that new shirt or gift that I dont need, I’m going to take that money and buy a hot meal for one of the workers Thank you Josh for helping me see that I’m no better if I don’t do my part.

    “He that give to the poor lend to the Lord”

  • The United Homeless organization is a great orgainzation. They have helped the street homeless people that no other organiztion knows how to deal with. They have been around for about 25 years, starting in Grand Central Station. God Bless them. Their website is http://www.united-homeless.org

  • Its a scam to get money…of course the workers will support it they work for the damn orgainzation. Yeah sure u could drop ur money in there thinking some homeless person will get it. But what u don’t know is the conartist behind this unforgiving scheme. I mourn the poor homeless souls who actually could benifit from this progarm. This organization needs to clean up their act. The economic troubles cannot take the blame for this caper. NO ONE SHOULD SUPPORT THIS ORGANIZATION it mocks you with a man doing completly nothing while his pockets get fatter and your helping him.

  • It’s been almost a year since “The One” left that comment, and nobody has responded to it. Or opened a discussion about it. Or even acknowledged it.

    It’s like you’re all ignoring it. Disturbing.

  • Every cent of loose change helps. For decades that has been the pitch of the United Homeless Organisation (UHO), whose workers operate on dozens of street corners in Manhattan, urging passers-by to help provide food, clothing and hygienic services for the tens of thousands of people in New York without a roof over their heads.

    But if the state’s top legal officer is to be believed, the charity is nothing but a scam, whose sole beneficiaries are the two people that run it and their workers. In a lawsuit filed this week, Attorney-General Andrew Cuomo claimed their programmes to help the homeless simply do not exist.

    Instead, the UHO “exploits the good intentions of people who thought they were helping fund the homeless” to channel money to its principals and workers, who then use the group’s non-profit, tax-exempt status “to line their own pockets”.

    The suit’s main targets are Stephen Riley, a former homeless man who runs the UHO out of his apartment near the Bronx zoo, and director Myra Walker. Mr Cuomo says they spent much of the proceeds on personal expenses, including travel, restaurants and shopping, while doing nothing for the homeless.

    By the standards of scams in New York, this one is small. The UHO’s declared revenues never exceeded $100,000 (£60,000) a year – even though Mr Cuomo said the donations and the fees for Mr Riley and Ms Walker were “grossly under-reported”. If Mr Cuomo is right, UHO in practice is no more than a franchise for begging.

    Mr Riley set up the body in 1985 and won tax-exempt status in 1993. He now charges workers $15 to $25 (£9 to £15) to rent a table and a jar for a four-hour shift. In return, the lawsuit says, the worker received a tablecloth, a UHO apron, plus an incorporation document from the state of New York, as proof for anyone who asked if it was a legally sanctioned charity. The workers keep everything over the base charge for themselves. Receipts during a shift in peak season can reach $80 (£48), although some workers said they made no more than $10 (£6) for themselves.

    Probably because the scheme is relatively small-scale, the state is taking civil rather than criminal action against UHO. The lawsuit seeks a temporary shutdown order, that would lead to permanent closure, and repayment by the two principals of falsely claimed money.

    With some 50 tables around Manhattan, each operating for two to three shifts seven days a week, Mr Riley and Ms Walker could have collected well over $100,000 in fees a year, according to some estimates. Yesterday the organisation refused comment on the accusations, and for the second day running its website was down.

  • UHO is a scam and now they started a few new scams…..I also know for a fact that most UHO workers are drug addicts esspecially the ones in times square.

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