Sierra Martin | Managing Editor
San Marcos Corridor News obtained all information in the following article from two independent anonymous sources.
A local organization, Together for a Cause, has neglected to provide payment amounting to over $27,000 to three San Marcos hotels for a GAP Transitional Housing Program (GAP). The company claims it will pay the amount owed if they receive a grant from the city. Together for a Cause was denied CDBG grant funding last month. However, the city is looking at giving Together for a Cause grant money of up to $200,000 from other funding sources.
But according to Together for a Cause’s CDBG application, all $85,000 requested in the grant will be used for salaries and benefits for the GAP Program Manager/Case Worker and Finance Manager.
Chetna Patel and Aayush Nagar, owners of three hotels in San Marcos: The Classic Inn, the Budget Inn, and the Executive Inn, began working with non-profits during COVID-19 to help provide shelter to individuals impacted by the pandemic or who have medical needs. The owners have voiced concerns about how they will be reimbursed the $27,385 local organization Together for a Cause owes and if the money will be provided through a grant from the City of San Marcos.
“We do have concerns about the way things have been handled by some of the non-profit groups we have worked with and we have concerns about a lack of communication from city staff, especially regarding a grant that is being considered for a program that would be operating at our motel,” the owners of the hotels wrote in a letter to The City of San Marcos.
In October 2020, Roland Saucedo, Board Member with the Salvation Army, approached the hotels’ owners about creating a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) with the Salvation Army for emergency motel stays.
According to the letter, the Salvation Army chose to release individuals from their emergency motel program in February during the snowstorm because there were “not sufficient funds for them to continue to house individuals.” Since several more days of freeze remained, the non-profit HOME Center took over the guest’s bills to keep people sheltered from the storm.
The Salvation Army never paid for extensive damages caused by guests staying in the hotel during the freeze. The hotels billed the Salvation Army for their guests, and some payments were not received until March when the hotel staff contacted Salvation Army headquarters in Dallas about the payment. At that time, the hotel owners were informed that Salvation Army District Manager Anthony Torres had not turned in the billing information for the vouchers.
Around mid-June, the hotel owners contacted the Salvation Army’s Dallas Headquarters due to not receiving payment for hotel stays since February for the GAP program managed by Saucedo. Will Hale, Divisional Director of Development for the Dallas Headquarters, informed them that the GAP program does not exist, was never authorized by the Salvation Army, and Anthony Torres was terminated for setting up the unauthorized program.
After the Salvation Army ended the unauthorized GAP program, Saucedo approached the hotels and said that the Salvation Army was at fault for the problems that occurred. He then stated that his non-profit, Together for a Cause, would manage the GAP program in the future.
According to their website, “Together For A Cause Inc.’s mission is to perform charitable services to the residence of Hays County by providing community events and fundraising events. We also provide services to the citizens of Hays County to help improve the quality of life, increase educational opportunities, promote leadership, increase the sense of culture and community.”
“He informed us that Together for a Cause has existed for many years, was an established non-profit with a 501c3, and that he would be receiving grant money from the city to pay for funding for up to 30 individuals,” the hotel owners stated in the letter.
The hotel owners have not signed an MOU with Together for a Cause yet or received adequate documentation about the program. They also expressed concern that Anthony Torres would be managing the GAP program and funds for the GAP program, which is what led to his termination from the Salvation Army.
The hotels have not been reimbursed consistently from Together for a Cause. One of the payments made towards guest stays was paid for by Saucedo with a credit card under another person’s name (Albert Vargas, founder of Together for a Cause) and said that the credit card “belonged to one of his benefactors.” The hotels were also responsible for covering the credit card fees.
“Although guests were paying Roland Saucedo money for Together for a Cause, no payment was submitted to the motel for the hotel stays. We have not received payment consistently for hotel stays for their clients,” the letter says.
According to the letter, Saucedo agreed to pay off all pending bills by check by August 3, but no payments were made. The hotel staff then asked for payment by August 5, where Saucedo said he would provide the owed amount but threatened to move the guests to another motel. As of September 2, no payment has been made and Saucedo has asked for an extension until September 7 when the city will inform him if Together for a Cause qualifies for a grant application.
In Together for a Cause’s application for the grant (below), it states they have received $15,500 from an anonymous benefactor. According to several sources, the anonymous benefactor is Mayor Jane Hughson and is an open secret within the city. Additionally, the local motels never received any portion of the $15,500.
According to the CDBG application, Together for a Cause is asking for $85,000 in total grant funding; $70,000 toward salary, and $15,000 towards fringe benefits for a GAP Program Manager/Case Worker and Finance Manager. None of the grant funding requested is allocated to assist in GAP housing payments.
The hotel owners contacted Carol Griffin, Housing and Community Development Manager for the City of San Marcos, to verify that Together for a Cause would make the payment on September 7. Griffith responded that the organization Together for a Cause was not, in fact, a non-profit or registered 501c3, so Saucedo may not qualify for the grant.
Griffith responded on August 25 that she is working on the terms of the contract with Together for a Cause where “the per-room rate that will be paid by the grant to the motel for one person is $45 per night, and for two or more people is $60 per night.”
In the letter, the hotel owners said they would be open to working with the city and Together for a Cause if they can work out the current misunderstandings and determine how payment for the program will be made.
Together for a Cause has not responded to multiple attempts to contact them as of the publication of this article.EDITED: Together-for-a-Cause-Council-Letter-September-2021-2
Together For A Cause Grant Application
This story has been corrected.