You may have seen this article from Des Moines Register:
Des Moines nonprofit's finances called into question ahead of crucial vote on tiny house village for homeless
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Consider donating to DSM Mutual Aid or Edna Griffin Mutual Aid (links below) instead of Joppa. Our orgs don’t have paid staff, so more than 95% of donations go directly to supplying campers.
A large part of Joppa’s budget goes directly to its CEO, Joe Stevens, not to supplies for campers. Worse, Joppa is now facing credible embezzlement accusations. Our people have also witnessed Joppa staff acting unethically when they do hand out supplies.
Des Moines Mutual Aid and Edna Griffin Mutual Aid, as their names imply, practice mutual aid. Put simply, mutual aid is poor people working with poor people to build a better world. In the context of camp work, this means fielding in-kind and monetary donations for supplies including propane, tents, tarps, and toiletries and handing these supplies out where campers live. We interact with the people we help on the basis of equality and solidarity. We try to ensure the survival of everyone in our community, while forging ties that advance revolutionary organizing. Some of us have been houseless, most of us have struggled to pay rent, and all of us have to worry about money.
We do not have paid staff. We do not take photo ops with people we give supplies to. We do not look down on the people we work with.We take issue with the model of all charities and traditional grant-based nonprofits because they perform for whatever projects attract grant funding and decide who is worthy of their services.
Our organizers have been in touch with a former long-term volunteer at Joppa, who has shed light on some concerning internal practices at Joppa which are outside the scope of the DSM Register article linked above. Joe Stevens, the founder and CEO, single-handedly controls the flow of cash. He and his wife took home $135,996 from the charity in tax year 2019, the latest year for which tax information is available. Joppa does not spend money on tents, tarps, and boots, instead asking the community for donations, despite their $1,900,000 revenue as of 2019. In the past year, most of its lower-level staff (9 employees) have quit due to varying grievances. Our ex-volunteer contact mentioned numerous “incomplete projects,” misogyny from Joe Stevens, and a focus using Joppa funds for external, PR-related aspects of the charity.
Our own volunteers have witnessed Joppa staff, camera crew in tow, ask campers to take photos with them before disbursing supplies, an egregious ethical violation in a situation where consent on the part of the campers is impossible. Joppa’s PR outfit has blamed campers' situations of houselessness on being spiritually “lost,'' rather than simply lacking the means to pay for an apartment - a troubling, basic misunderstanding of the housing crisis. Moreover, it is extremely disturbing that Joe Stevens and his wife take considerable compensation from the organization, and that their son has apparently embezzled large sums of money from the organization. Joppa’s administration has its lifestyle funded by charitable donations to the organization, something DMMA and EGMA cannot fathom, ethically and ideologically.
The purpose of this statement is not to denigrate Joppa’s low-level staff nor to “claim the turf” of doing camp work. We earnestly hope that more individuals and mutual aid organizations will step up to do this work - there is always more need than we can handle! We are concerned first with letting people who might be disheartened by Joppa admin’s malfeasance know that alternative organizations exist. We are also concerned that the embezzlement scandal will mean that Joppa and its services come to a sudden end. Despite its issues, Joppa did provide essential supplies for many campers, and their sudden absence would create a void in services - one that others will have to fill. If this is the case, additional donations and volunteers will be crucial.