Two stories published by the Burlington County Times on October 29, 2014, in both print and online editions, included numerous factual errors or erroneous statements regarding Good Counsel, Inc. and the home that it operates in Riverside, New Jersey.
In an article entitled “State probes Riverside shelter’s solicitations of homeless food stamps” the errors begin in the headline, as residents and staff call Good Counsel a home, never a shelter. That seemingly small mischaracterization creates a larger misunderstanding throughout this article.
Currently, no mothers at the Riverside location are contributing any benefits known as New Jersey Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (NJ SNAP). Therefore, no NJ SNAP funds or food are being given to Good Counsel. Unfortunately, that is most often the case. Women apply for benefits and there is a delay, usually two to three months, in receiving them, which means Good Counsel is always providing all food which is necessary for each mother and child.
The article does not correctly explain how Good Counsel helps mothers attain responsibility and independence. The article is not only incomplete, but also inaccurate. Good Counsel provides food, diapers, clothing, toys and much more for women and children. Mothers learn valuable aptitudes which include menu preparation, economical and nutritional shopping, food preparation, cooking and serving among many other necessary family living skills. The mothers prepare most of their meals independently.
The article, not understanding how such a charity as Good Counsel works, distorts how food is purchased and used. Everything Good Counsel provides is through donations. However, all food is not directly donated. Many generous donors help Good Counsel to purchase food for mothers and babies to eat every day.
Good Counsel understands that the reporter who authored these articles called the New Jersey Department of Human Services (DHS) and, after explaining what she believed to be the practice regarding NJ SNAP benefits, elicited a response that DHS is going to inquire whether federal SNAP regulations have been violated. To date, Good Counsel has not been contacted by DHS and is not aware of any such inquiry.
The article also inaccurately compares Good Counsel to an unrelated homeless shelter in San Diego. Contrary to the implication made in the article, Good Counsel does not require its mothers to provide their EBT (SNAP) cards and pin numbers in exchange for meals or a place to stay. Neither does Good Counsel pool SNAP benefits to feed the mothers and children living in the home.
Finally, the article incorrectly states that Good Counsel has no organizational ties to the Roman Catholic Church. Good Counsel is part of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York.
In a separate article entitled “The cost of helping homeless women and children,” the author failed to note that 79% of the money spent by Good Counsel, including most salaries, are for program expenses, meaning to counsel, direct and support the mothers and babies who call or come to Good Counsel. While an additional 9% is spent on management and 12% on fundraising, it needs to be stated that compared to similar organizations, this is extremely good. It is very difficult to raise funds and spend such a small amount doing it.
Other inaccuracies include misstatements like “[t]he organization collected more than $3.8 million in contributions…from its four locations….” Most money is not raised in or through any one location.
Also, the article mischaracterized the Executive Director’s total compensation (including benefits) as salary.
For further information about the mission of Good Counsel Homes, please contact Christopher Bell at (201) 795-0637.