“Faith-based” homeless shelter gets into debt collection.

August 28, 2006 | By | 2 Replies More

Providing jobs for homeless people.  We’d pretty much all agree that it is a fine thing to do. It hadn’t occurred to me before to complain about the jobs that might be offered, although I have complained that pay and benefits for many jobs are inadequate.  A recent “news story” made me take notice.  The story is here but you have to register to look at it.  I’ve reprinted it below so you won’t need to: 

Homeless Shelter Residents get Jobs at Collection Agency

August 28, 2006 – by Mike Bevel, CollectionIndustry.com

A Washington state-based collection agency owner is pairing up with a faith-based homeless shelter to provide jobs for homeless people in the area.

Wayne Garlington is the owner of Accounts Receivable Inc., and sits on the board of Open House Ministries – both based in Vancouver, WA. He is currently employing five women to work as collection agents.

Garlington said he has been pleased with their performance. “They’re not being handed something,” he told the the Columbian News. “They really want to work.”

The jobs not only give the women benefits, they also allow for them to increase their income through bonuses. The company collects on overdue accounts for the city of Vancouver and Clark Public Utilities, among others.

Garlington decided to try out the idea after hearing about a similar plan being carried out by a collection agency on the East Coast.

A ‘faith-based’ homeless shelter, why isn’t that an oxymoron?  If you really had faith, would you still be homeless? Or maybe you are homeless because God wants you to learn from adversity?  Or maybe it is just that the people who must rely on such a shelter haven’t been converted yet.  I guess the homeless shelter hasn’t done quite enough of the trades where the homeless person gets a meal or a cot if they listen to a sermon first.  The shelter in this article has found a way to provide jobs, and interestingly enough, the jobs are for one of the shelter’s board members.  Having seen what I consider to be some of the worst consumer abuses coming out of churches, I’m suspicious.  I think there is an ulterior motive there, and more than just converting the homeless to their particular brand of religion.

The example I gave in my earlier post,  “Love of Money,” was of a $15,000 condemned property selling without significant improvement for $120,000.  Actually, I minimized the facts.  The true story:  the $15,000 house was sold to by a church member to another church member for $135,000.  The victim spoke to a person in authority in the church, and learned this wasn’t the first complaint made about this particular person, and was further told the church didn’t want to cause division, or “play favorites” so the church refused to get involved.  To my knowledge, the property flipper’s business card is still on the church bulletin board.  No favorites there, right?

It also seems that the very worst of the worst are in Spanish speaking churches, where the abused consumers are more likely to be undocumented, and therefore much less likely to complain of poor treatment.  I assume the same would be true of any other congregation of noncitizen, undocumented people, although I have had little personal experience with those.  Call me cynical, but I have no reason to doubt it would be the same.  A word of advice:  if you know a church member using their church to drum up business, run away.

If I told you that I could get 10 homeless women jobs selling themselves for sex, and I got a cut of all they brought in, you wouldn’t think very highly of me.  I consider debt collecting to be almost that bad.

I’m biased, and I’ll be up front about it.  I hate debt collectors.  I absolutely think that people should pay their debts (actually, I prefer not making debts in the first place, but that makes it very hard to buy houses and cars).  I think people should borrow with great care.  I believe in responsible use of credit.  I understand that sometimes people need to be ‘encouraged’ to pay debts.  I’ve been in business, I’ve had to write a few letters to get people to pay what they owed me or the company I worked for.  But nobody complains to me about the good debt collectors, so my view of the world is biased (which is true of everyone, but sometimes it is hard to see or admit).

I’ve known of debt collectors that would threaten your life, threaten your children’s lives, threaten to have you thrown in jail, threaten to ‘take everything you own’ and the list goes on and on.  I’ve known of debt collectors telling very elderly and ill people that they were going to continue getting abused and yelled at “until you pay up or die.”  There are some horrifying tales of abuse on the web.  Check out http://www.budhibbs.com/, for example. 

Why do debt collectors do such horrible things?  I suspect a few are psychopaths.  But first and foremost, I think it is to keep a job. When faced with letting your family go hungry or abusing someone, I am afraid most of us would choose the latter.  I have been told very real first hand stories of having to make that ‘Sophie’s choice:’ take the illegal steps to collect a debt or be fired.  For most people, loss of job is the only stick an employer can beat them with.  Are the homeless women in this shelter going to lose their cot as well as their jobs if they don’t play the game?

Second, a good percentage of the income a debt collector brings in is based on the amounts they collect from consumers.  Remember the article referring to bonuses?  Those ‘bonuses’ are an integral part of the employee’s pay, and often the single largest part.  The more money the debt collector can squeeze from that turnip, the more the debt collector will be paid.  It is a lot like the system used to pay car salesmen, and has the same abusive results, but I will save that rant for another time.  There are lots of other reasons, I’m sure, but I think those are the two biggest:  keeping your job and making money.

So to me, this article is about a combination of two of my least favorite elements: a ‘faith-based’ entity and a debt collection agency.  The faithful are making money by getting desperate people to do miserable things to others.  Pretty cheap recruiting, if you ask me.

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Category: Consumerism, Good and Evil, Religion, Uncategorized

About the Author ()

My life's goal is to make a difference; to help those stuck in the mire of poverty and ignorance. I am an advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves, whether from ignorance, from lack of eloquence or simple lack of opportunity.

Comments (2)

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    OK, Deb. I felt my blood boiling as I read your description of the flagrantly bad debt collectors. Then I read some of the stories on Bud Hibbs' site.

    But now I'm hoping that there really is a hell so that these nasty characters can get some eternal payback. How about this: they are forced to live in a tiny and unbearably hot house. There is constant knocking on the door–someone saying "Acme Debt Collector! Open the Door!" They try to ignore the knocking for hours on end, but they all eventually relent because it's so unbearably hot and the windows are glued shut. So they open the door and the debt collector throws a basket of locusts at them or something like that.

    Ahhh . . . that's better. Maybe I should reconsider my agnosticism. Maybe I COULD get into that eternal vengeance thing . . .

  2. Ed Lewis says:

    Heres a link to a book that outlines collection agency secrets… http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore/BookStoreSea

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