Uncharitable Contributions

Homeless people say fees for background checks are a get-rich-quick scheme for social service agencies.

"If you're not gonna give me the apartment, don't charge me," says Charles Goss, a street vendor who says he's gone through more than $150 in the last few months looking for places to stay. Even though he works, he struggles to come up with the money.

Goss, who is currently homeless, doubts background checks cost as much as poor people pay for them. "If a cop can run a check in his car in five minutes, how can they charge me?"

Catholic Charities eventually waived the fee for Jane's background check and helped her find a spacious three-bedroom apartment that costs her just under $200 a month. But, says Bach, Jane "would have never gotten that place" without Humanity for Homeless advocating on her behalf. "The people who are experts need to be the ones setting policy and procedure on how these rules apply," she says.

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