Updated: Apr 11
ECHO, or Ending Community Homelessness Coalition, is a major 501(c)3 public nonprofit here in Austin. Perhaps it's the most influential one in the homeless game that there is.
As a public, tax exempt nonprofit, ECHO is required by the IRS to, "make annual returns and exemption applications filed with the IRS available for public inspection and copying upon request." (Emphasis my own.) Typically, it is the form 990 that nonprofits file annually that show their financials - total revenues, total costs, etc. Many nonprofits, in an effort to make things as easy and transparent as possible, will have a link on their website to view their most recent 990s. Caritas of Austin does. So does the Foundation For The Homeless. However, ECHO does not.
Since their financials are not listed on their website, I sent them an email through their online contact form asking for their 990 and other documents. In their response, they stated that, "we do not disclose the requested information to the general public."
If that is indeed their policy, they are breaking tax codes for public non profits. As you can see from the IRS website above, they must make these documents available to the public upon request.
We have gone back and forth for several days now, in which they have pointed me to the IRS website, as well as guidestar.org, to obtain these documents. The trouble is that I don't want to register with another website, and I've searched the IRS website already. The best that I can find there is an annual statement from 2018. As it is 2021 already, one would think that there are couple of years missing.
Furthermore, as an Austinite who has to suffer through the disastrous homeless crisis that was created by the city, my tax dollars are being funneled into these non profit organizations whether I want them to or not. And what do we have to show for it except over priced hotels, regular trash fires, and worsening conditions? Many of the other nonprofits list their financials on their website for all to see, so why doesn't ECHO?
It seems to me that they may be trying to hide something. I don't know if that is the case, but their actions are not doing much to assuage my fears.
This is developing story, and I will continue to update it should the situation change. Updated: ECHO shared their 2019 documentation after weeks of back and forth. While nothing untoward pops out at first, their actions alone spur a closer look. I hope everything is as it should be, but should I find anything I will certainly report it here or on the podcast, so make sure you tune in! 2020 and beyond should be even more interesting, so I will be on the look out for those documents when the time comes.