Boise Rescue Mission says group targeting Idaho businesses is not affiliated

kterhune@idahostatesman.comAugust 20, 2013 

— Jason Billester, the Boise Rescue Mission's director of development, said a group called “No Child Left Homeless” is targeting Idaho businesses, claiming to be connected to the Boise Rescue Mission and asking for donations.

Billester said the solicitors claim they are part of a California-based movement helping homeless children that is expanding to Idaho. The Rescue Mission first heard about the group about six months ago.

“We are in no way connected or affiliated with them,” Billester said Thursday.

The solicitors are directing potential donors to the Boise Rescue Mission’s website for information, and telling them that the mission is partnered with “No Child Left Homeless” and supports its donation efforts.

That’s not true, Billester said.

“We don’t know them, we don’t know who they are, and if they tell a business that they are representing Boise Rescue Mission or that they support the mission, they’re lying,” he said.

While helping homeless children is a noble goal, Billester said, the Boise Rescue Mission has not thoroughly investigated the group and does not know where its funds are going.

Members of “No Child Left Homeless” have called the Boise Rescue Mission’s facilities several times, he said. Billester said he has asked members of the movement to stop using the rescue mission’s name.

“In our conversation, I specifically told the person who was calling that if they really wanted to help us, they could make a donation,” he said. “She wasn’t interested in that.”

Rudy Pena, a counselor in Pocatello, said he received an email from the group. The members claimed to be raising money for the Boise Rescue Mission, but something seemed off, he said.

“It just didn’t make much sense,” he said. “Usually the rescue mission would call you by phone, but this seemed a little different.”

Pena said he did not give the group any money. Although he did not save the email from the group, he later reported the suspicious dispatch to the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs, who called him investigating the group.

“It didn’t sound legitimate,” Pena said.

The “No Child Left Homeless” group reportedly also told rescue mission workers that they were aligned with KIVI Channel 6, which the station says isn't true.

“We have no affiliation with them,” KIVI General Manager Marie McGlynn said.

Attempts by the Statesman to reach members of the “No Child Left Homeless” group were unsuccessful. Billester said no one from the group provided a last name or any contact information to the Rescue Mission. A search of a national nonprofit database yielded no organizations with that name in California.

Representatives of a Vista, Calif., shelter with a similarly named program denied any connection with the solicitors. The organization does not operate outside of California, and has no plans to expand to Idaho, a woman who answered the phone said.

The founder of an Arizona group called “No Child Left Homeless” also told the Statesman the solicitors were not associated with his organization. Phil Kennedy, who ran the organization with his wife in Queen Creek, said he had dissolved the outreach earlier this year.

Billester said he worries that donors may be fleeced into giving money to a group with unclear motivations.

He stopped short of calling the group a scam, but said without proper vetting, there is no way for the mission to know whether donations made to “No Child Left Homeless” are actually being used to help children on the streets.

“I think it’s honorable to make a donation in support of an organization that provides services for the homeless,” he said. “It’s less than honorable to direct funds elsewhere.”

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