Tiny Non-profit Helping Poor Fights Back Against Man They Say Stole Not Only Their Insurance Money But Their Rent
A non-profit in Eureka that works to reduce homelessness, among other good works, almost became homeless this last month when their insurance agent and sublease-holder kept their payments for himself, alleges Brandie Wilson, one of the board of directors for HACHR, the Humboldt Area Center for Harm Reduction.
The trouble began last fall, she said. Gathering the almost $2400 her small non-profit needed to pay insurance last October was hard but expected however, the insurance agent she trusted to give the money to ABA Insurance Services, John Ford, didn’t pay the premium even though he cashed her check the day after she gave it to him. Wilson didn’t realize this until January when she received a notice of cancellation from her insurance company.
On top of that, HACHR subleased their office space from John Ford. Wilson was worried about how to confront Ford about the insurance problem. Then, on that on January 11, she saw a letter to the editor from Thomas Mulder complaining that Ford had taken money from his non-profit without providing worker’s compensation insurance.
In tears, she called us. “If we complained [about the insurance money], would we lose our office space? It’s in the perfect place to serve our clients.”
Wilson felt defeated. How could she come up with the money for the insurance company again? HACHR operates on a shoestring budget.
“We serve the most disenfranchised people in our community,” she said. HACHR, the Humboldt Area Center for Harm Reduction, works to reduce “overdose deaths, mental illness, suicide, and homelessness rates.”
“We feed people. We connect people to health care, with treatment, and with testing,” she said.
They desperately needed their office which is located near the Humboldt County Courthouse but Ford subleased property he rented to them. And, according to Wilson, even though HACHR had been paying him, he hadn’t been paying their landlord. “John hadn’t paid our rent since $700 in November (that wasn’t even half of what was owed!),” she told us.
Gingerly, on January 11, Wilson reached out to Ford asking about the insurance. He stated via text that it had been “paid in full.” Then he went on to insist that her “policy is solid.”
Knowing she was in trouble, Wilson not only reached out to us but she also contacted the District Attorney’s Office and, Paul Gallegos, the attorney representing Thomas Mulder’s non-profit. Gallegos agreed to represent her. “He is only charging us costs,” she said with relief. “He is not charging us for his time. He’s doing it because he says we need support.”
Now, with the help of a few others, Wilson and her non-profit are beginning to see a way clear from this mess. Most importantly, HACHR doesn’t have to come up with more money for the insurance company. “The insurance company is going to take that loss,” she explained. “Because I paid one of their representatives” so the company is responsible for covering the problem. HACHR has insurance for another year.
In addition, they have bypassed Ford to reach out to the owners of their office space. “Gallegos called them and we now are the main lease holders to our building,” Wilson said gleefully. “We feel like our own damn super heroes now…Gallegos gave us the cape!”
Wilson has plans. “Now the building will be our center…We went from almost being homeless to…we now have the building.” They have found a housing non-profit that will be moving in and subleasing from HACHR.
She notes that she does have a dream for HACHR she hopes will come true. “We do have another office space [and] we are hoping for a mental health non-profit [to rent that space] because then we would be an amazing center.”